The Outreach team were a bit apprehensive about how the lockdown would affect the work we do. From January until lockdown began we worked with over 300 women and their children. Many of these women regularly attend our weekly drop-ins where they can have a hot meal, practise their English and chat to their friends and our volunteers in a safe and welcoming environment. We also help with practical needs which range from connecting women to solicitors, helping their children access schools or introducing them to what the wonderful city of Liverpool has to offer. We also hold workshops by some amazing partner organisations such as Movema, The Brook or Lush.

Activities we usually run at our drop-ins

Although we have an established Outreach community, some women will only meet us once - when they are at the beginning of their journey through the asylum system. Liverpool hosts the Initial Accommodation centres for the North West meaning women who are seeking asylum will often stay in the city for just a few weeks before being moved to more permanent accommodation across the wider region.

Because one of our drop-ins runs at a Church near to one of these centres we have tailored our services at this drop-in to women who have newly arrived in Liverpool. For example, our Early Action project at this drop-in works with women to provide them with a range information about their healthcare, education and legal rights. The idea is to equip women who choose to access the project as best as possible for their next steps through the challenging and complex asylum system through information delivery. Often women we meet who staying at these centres have been in the UK for just a few days and have not met with any support organisations yet. Many women have had long and traumatic journeys to the UK and sometimes do not speak English. Our drop-ins are therefore often the first place where they can talk to someone in their own language, get some new clothes and shoes more suited to the unpredictable, rainy British weather or just have a hot meal in a safe environment.

'We've adapted to ensure our Outreach community still has access to our services whilst also meeting new needs the pandemic has created'

Since lockdown began we've been working hard to transform our services to suit remote delivery. We've adapted to ensure our Outreach community still has access to our services whilst also meeting new needs the pandemic has created. Some of the ways we've been doing this are through weekly check-ins with women who need it most, ensuring as many of our women as possible have access to information and guidance about COVID-19 in their own language, organising food parcel deliveries for those who are isolating or are experiencing poverty and assisting with practical queries over the phone.

A massive part of our work we've undertaken since lockdown began has been collating and delivering Isolation Packs. These packs include cleaning products, hand sanitisers and personal hygiene products. We've been distributing them to as many women as possible across Merseyside. The low rates of Asylum Support (women typically live off around £5 per person a day) have meant that purchasing the additional cleaning products we all need to protect ourselves during the pandemic has not always been an option for our women. This is especially a problem for those in shared accommodation or in the shielding group. This is made even harder by not being able to shop online with an Asylum Support card. 

As a team we've worked really hard to transform our services but none of what we do - pre, during and (looking forward!) post lockdown - is possible without our amazing volunteers, the generous people who donate to us and other agencies and organisations we work alongside. Our volunteers are the backbone of our drop-ins; they are the English teachers, the cooks, the play assistants and the listening ears. Our Isolation Packs have only been possible due to the amount of donations we've received and we are so grateful to those who have been able to give during this hard time. We're continuously continuously grateful to be working with such incredible external partners who allow us to offer specialist services to our women.

Although we're not yet sure what the easing of lockdown restrictions will mean for our drop-ins, we're excited to carry on working with and meeting new women to support them as much as we can into the 'new normal'.