Merton asylum charity struggles for funding after government cuts


The charity has seen a 22% rise in the number of people seeking support.

By Anthony Lewis-Binns

A charity which provides support to recently arrived refugees and asylum seekers in Wimbledon is suffering from the effects of government cuts.

The Merton Asylum Welcome charity, which operates from the Everyday Church on Queens Road near Wimbledon Station, has seen a 22% rise in the number of people seeking their support, at a time when funding for charities and their affiliates is being heavily cut by the government.

Cuts are affecting charities across the country. Freedom of Information requests made by the anti-cuts groups False Economy showed that charities for children and young people are the worst- affected, and that over £17million of cuts will be made this year.

According to its research published on Tuesday, over 2,000 charities across England face a ‘black hole’ in funding.

Financial constraints meant the charity could not retain the services of Carol Pegg Tsivanidis from the Citizens Advice Bureau, who was a long-standing partner and advisor for the charity.

“The loss of this committed partner is indicative of the impact of national funding cuts on service provision and partnership development. We thank Carol for her invaluable support throughout the year,” said Claire Ashby, one of two charity Chairs.

“It is certain that the charity will continue to be affected.”

The centre received 1052 visits over the last year, and managed to see an average of 24 people per week. The Wandsworth branch of the charity sees on average 26 people per week, and resources are said to be stretched to their limits.

The Asylum Welcome charity provides hot meals, advice on matters such as housing, welfare and health, and runs GCSE maths and English classes. The nature of the problems refugees and asylum seekers face means they also organise trips to instil a sense of fun into what are often harrowing lives.

People from countries such as Sudan have often fled war and had family members killed. Grinding poverty in home countries and in theUKmeans that families cannot afford to treat their children.

The charity organises trips to London Zoo, the Polka Theatre on Broadway in Wimbledon, and even Margate. One recipient of the trip to the beach said: “This was my first time coming to a place like this. I love it, the beach.”

Catherine Green, joint Chair of the charity, added: “The trips provide an invaluable opportunity for people to relax, to forget, to escape from Londonand meet new people.

“For many, this was the first visit to a British beach, for others, the first time to enter the sea.”

 On the trip to Polka Theatre, service users were treated to a performance of All Join In.

“Many of the children and parents attending commented that this was their first theatre visit and viewed it as an exciting new experience,” added Ms Green.

The charity also attended the Child Poverty Consultation at Central Hall, Westminster on February 14.

“The meeting provided a platform for the group to voice their views about the issues affecting unaccompanied asylum-seeking young people. We discussed issues including detention, the asylum process and support for young people,” said Ms Ashby.

“For many this was the first time they had been given the opportunity to voice their views at a policy level.”

 A man who uses the services, Huaqim, said: “My only financial support was a £30 voucher per week which stopped when my initial asylum claim was refused. Asylum Welcome supported me until social services took responsibility.”

Huaqim and many like him are stuck without support from charities like Merton Asylum Welcome. Once the cuts go through this year, it will be impossible for many of them to continue to support the amount of people they do, which is why it is important for people to donate anything they can.

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