About Jon Beech

I joined LASSN as the Director in December 2013. I've a particular interest in mental health, ethnicity, and helping people make sense of their world and their community.

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“What can I do to help refugees from Afghanistan?”

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2021-09-03T08:56:19+01:002nd September, 2021|Categories: Asylum, Headline posts, Resources|

A lot of people have been in touch over the last week, with unbelievably generous offers of help, housing, volunteering - all asking to know ways they can help refugees from Afghanistan. We are unbelievably grateful, and slightly embarrassed that we've yet to hear of any Afghans who've arrived in Leeds on the various resettlement schemes. So we've helped to draft this joint reponse from Leeds Migration Partnership https://migrationpartnership.org.uk/afghanistan so the refugee charities of Leeds give out clear and consistent messages. We are told that when people arrive, they will be provided with wrap-around care, and that the UK Government have this in hand. That said - despite "Operation Warm Welcome" - the UK Government plans to make the welcome for refugees who arrive without invitation less than warm. Including Afghan refugees who are not eligible for this wrap-around care. You might agree. You might disagree. But we'd like you to know more about it - and how it connects to the situation of folks who aren't lucky enough to be airlifted out of dangerous situations. You can find more info on this after this briefing sheet. Most of the organisations working with refugees in Leeds are working with people who have come to the UK without an invitation. Some of those people are from Afghanistan, but most refugees in Leeds are not eligible for the help offered to people who’ve been hand-picked by the Home Office. And although the Home Office have asked that all offers of help for Afghan people go through them – it’s actually much better to contact the Council (if you have an empty property that could be used to house people) or Migration Yorkshire – who are coordinating things on a regional level. They have produced an excellent in depth explanation of how people can offer help. Collecting, storing, cleaning and organising goods is an expensive and time consuming task. Charity shops like St Vincent’s do this brilliantly well, as well as offering support to people seeking asylum as well as refugees. It’s generally cheaper to buy new from Asda/Primark. Plus, from a human perspective – there’s enormous dignity in not being forced to wear second hand undies. If UK people want to show support for refugees more generally – there’s an opportunity for them to speak out against the UK Government’s New Plan for Immigration. This New Plan intends to create a two tier system for refugees. One group will arrive at the invitation of the UK Government, selected from particular refugee camps. These are called resettlement schemes. If the New Plan passes into law, the other group – the people who have not arrived on UK Government chartered planes or at UK invitation – will be said to have arrived here illegally. So even if people seeking refuge persuade the Home Office that their lives are in danger, and they cannot return home (for example that they are from Afghanistan and are wanted by the Taliban) they will be treated [...]

LASSN’s support of tech across Leeds and beyond, since the start of the Pandemic in 2020

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2021-07-06T17:25:26+01:005th July, 2021|Categories: Uncategorised|

In the last year many people have experienced disconnection and loneliness, and the people LASSN work alongside are no exception. Over the last year, LASSN has worked hard to overcome these barriers by putting affordable technology into the hands into the hands of anyone who has needed it, and by supporting other people with the same goal. We're long-term collaborators with solidaritech.com but this year, we had to do a little but more for ourselves... March 2020 Lockdown restrictions mean face to face support from LASSN is suspended. All LASSN clients and volunteers offered £5/month phone costs; LASSN hosts fortnightly Leeds Migration Partnership online lunchtime chats, to keep colleagues networked and in touch with one another; LASSN provides free WIFI to destitute asylum seekers accomodated by Leeds City Council April-May 2020 helpinleeds.com - updated by a LASSN volunteer on furlough furloughed LASSN staff support launch of Migration Yorkshire's migrantinfohub.org.uk LASSN's post on the use of video tech and the cost of data on migrationpartnership.org.uk is the most popular ever, with over 4000 hits April-July 2020 Our city-wide Digital Inclusion Scheme launches - volunteers collect/wipe/unlock and distribute more than 100 phones, 40 WIFI dongles, 150 data SIM cards to asylum seekers and refugees in Leeds. This is mostly thanks to the flexibility of the Police and Crime Commissioner, who let us use the grant they gave us, for this. LASSN shares experiences through Refugee Action Good Practice Hub and with colleagues at 100% Digital and Leeds' Health and Wellbeing Board LASSN volunteers managers work closely with colleagues from other organisations to develop online content, social/chat spaces, and the confidence/skill to run effective online groups May-September 2020 LASSN develops online resources for Tutors and Befrienders, online support training, as well as online safeguarding guidance a small library of spare laptops/tablets/PCs to be loaned to clients and volunteers as needed June-October 2020 LASSN partners with Leeds Refugee Forum to secure costs of improving Leeds Refugee Forum website creating microsites for each of the Refugee Community Organisations supported by LRF supplying 12 Refugee Community Organisations with laptops, broadband costs, and digital training development of digital skills for refugees and people seeking asylum, in a variety of languages July 2020 Phone costs offered to LASSN clients and volunteers increases to £10/month August-September 20 PCs and webcams supplied to Hotels being used by Home Office contractors to house asylum seekers in Leeds, York and Hull  all Grace Hosts and people living at Grace House anyone wanting to volunteer with LASSN who does not have the digital equipment to do so November 2020 increased participation of Refugee Community Organisations in citywide strategic discussions by offering £35/hr "back-fill" for time spent in meetings. LASSN starts work on what will become Events in Leeds with Leeds City of Sanctuary, Refugee Council’s New Roots and the Leeds Migration Partnership, in collaboration with Maryan from sidelabs LASSN starts to recruit and deliver volunteer training online December 2020 LASSN increases data allowance for clients and volunteers to £20 a month LASSN creates [...]

Updated Guidance for Volunteers: Step 3, 17th May 2021

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2021-05-17T17:28:10+01:0017th May, 2021|Categories: Uncategorised|

So it's the end of Lockdown? Almost. From 17th May 2021, most of the UK experienced a relaxation in Lockdown restrictions - with Step 3 marking an end to restrictions for most outdoor activities (with fewer than 30 people) and the re-opening of indoor and outdoor hospitality. What does this mean for LASSN volunteers? It means that you and the person we've introduced you to have the chance to lawfully meet indoors, socially, for the first time since Autumn 2020. So you'd like us to meet up with the person we know? We'd definitely like you to talk with the person you know about how they are doing if they are getting out if they have met anyone yet. Conversations like this can be really helpful in broaching the issue indirectly or in a way where no one feels pressured. They also allow you to share as much as you feel comfortable with about your own experiences, and maybe something about the massive number of vaccinations completed safely in Leeds, the widespread experience of some irritating side-effects, and the way that vaccine uptake has helped wider society to start opening up again There's no right or wrong conversation, just the conversation you have. You can find vaccine-related information here in a variety of languages https://migrantinfohub.org.uk/search?q=vaccine If and when you decide to meet up, please let your Volunteer Manager know, so we can talk you through stuff like PPE, the logistics of first meeting up, and to make sure the person you're meeting with understands and is happy with your plans. So why are you posting this? You're saying what you said last time. Pretty much. We want to be consistent in our advice to people to Keep up to date with (and follow) the official advice and guidance from Government and Public Health Make sure the person you support is getting the free monthly phone credit - offered by LASSN (previously as much as £20 a month, reducing to £15 a month in June, £10 in July and on an ad hoc basis from then) Proceed with caution, especially if your actions/activities could increase the risk of infection for you and the people you support And the Indian Variation? Without getting hung up on why the UK C-19 variant is known as the "Kent" mutation, whereas overseas variants go by the name of the country in which they have first been detected – we will continue to see all sorts of new variants and outbreaks across the world, as the weeks and months go by. Our biggest challenge is learning together to live safely with Covid and weave good hygiene and infection control into our everyday lives. So will LASSN start training/meeting up/doing socials again any time soon? Right now, we're mainly waiting to see how things pan out. You'll see we're trying a few activities face to face – Meet and Connect in the Park – a cycle ride by a canal, the football kickabouts. But we think it's [...]

LASSN Festival of Connecting and Reconnecting, March 15th – 19th, 2021 

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2021-03-04T16:51:36+00:003rd March, 2021|Categories: Headline posts, Volunteering|

This year we cannot bring everyone together face-to-face as we usually would, so instead we invite you to take part in a week of fun activities that will hopefully help us to all feel more connected during these strange times. You can sign up to as many sessions with ‘unlimited’ spaces as you like, and you can choose one session that has ‘limited’ spaces. Some of the activities require ingredients or materials or the costs of putting the cooker on, so please tell us so we can help pay for them. We never ever want money to be a barrier to people coming together and having a good time - so please don't be embarrassed. Please tell us if some money towards the cost of ingredients or materials or cooking costs or phone credit would be helpful. We really really want to see you!  Monday 15th March, 12 – 12.45pm Have Fun through Dance with Nikki   If you miss dancing with friends to some happy music and having a little bit of exercise then this session is for you.  You don't need any skills, just need a little bit of space to move around and some comfortable clothing, anyone that enjoys dancing is very welcome. Nikki is a qualified dance fitness instructor and a former Zumba® instructor. She will demonstrate the dance move for each song so that everyone can follow along.   Places available: unlimited Tuesday 16th March, 11am - 12pm Cooking with Hala    Hala will be cooking the Palestinian dish Mujadara which is made up of lentils, rice (and/or bulgur) and caramelized onions.  You can get the ingredients in advance to cook along with her or just join the session and watch! We will send out a list of ingredients a week before the session, and a supermarket voucher to buy ingredients, or volunteers can claim back through their expenses. Places available: unlimited Tuesday 16th March, 6 – 7.30pm  Wellbeing Workshop for Adults (by Impact North)  Jane Kenington is an Art Psychotherapist working with families in schools and the community. She will be running a creative workshop for adults focusing on wellbeing. She will be using breathing and mindfulness techniques combined with creativity and movement that you can go on to incorporate into your daily lives.  You will need paper and pens /pencils /crayons plus any other creative materials you wish to use – scissors, glue, collage, sequins, glitter etc. If you are buying stuff for you, or someone who is coming to the session, please claim up to £5 for each of you, by contacting the Volunteers Manager Places available: limited Wednesday 17th March, 2 - 3pm  Baking with Naglaa Jjoin this session to watch how Nagla bakes baklava and learn some tips to try it at home yourself! We will send out a list of ingredients a week before the session, and a supermarket voucher to buy ingredients, or volunteers can claim back through their expenses. Places available: unlimited  Thursday 18th March, 11am – 12pm [...]

Volunteer Guidance March 2021: the Roadmap out of Lockdown 3

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2021-03-02T12:10:57+00:002nd March, 2021|Categories: Befriending, Connecting Opportunities, English at Home, Grace Hosting, Resources, Volunteering|

Last week, the Prime Minister announced a new Roadmap to relaxing the Pandemic restrictions. This sets out a loose timetable of how the Government predicts restrictions will be lifted, from 8th March 2021 (when children will return to face to face schooling and one-to-one socialising in public spaces becomes possible.)  If you are looking for useful summaries you can share, both the BBC and The Guardian explanations work well in Google Translate, (as does this one from AgeUK) and the multilingual resources on the Migrant Info Hub are also reliable and accessible.    LASSN’s position remains the same as it was last March and last July: that Staff and Volunteers should Keep up to date with (and follow) the official advice and guidance from Government and Public Health Make sure the person you support is getting the free monthly phone credit offered by LASSN Proceed with caution, especially if your actions/activities could increase the risk of infection for you and the people you support Although mass vaccination has helped to reduce the number of people getting very sick with Covid-19 - please be aware The science shows that most of the people we support are at significantly higher risk of infection and severe illness than the wider population Most LASSN clients have not received a first dose of the vaccine yet Our clients are likely to take their lead from you about what is acceptable and not acceptable. So the way you go about planning/actually meeting up will likely influence how they start meeting and socialising with others Even if you have been vaccinated, and the person you are meeting has been vaccinated, this does not mean you are both "safe" or that you can act as if restrictions don't apply. None of the current vaccines have been proven to reduce the spread of infection, so it is still important to reduce your possible exposure to the virus by limiting the number of people you see, and prevent transmission of the virus via masks and social distancing.   So, if and when you and the person you support judge the right time to meet up in person  Do so within the official advice and guidance from Government and Public Health Choose a method of contact that suits both you and the person you are supporting (and the other members of their household) and consider the questions we posed at the bottom of the guidance from July 2020  Please speak with your Volunteers Manager before you do, so we can make sure you have everything you need to do this safely LASSN’s activities will resume at a pace we all feel comfortable with, with risks identified and managed carefully. There are no plans to re-occupy our offices as our main place of work just yet, and certainly not until we’ve been able to see the impact of Step Four. Thank you again for your support and enthusiasm over the last year, particularly through the last few months of Lockdown3. It has been hard for [...]

Guidance for LASSN Volunteers during Tier 5 aka Lockdown 3, from 6th January 2021

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2021-01-06T17:38:20+00:006th January, 2021|Categories: Befriending, Connecting Opportunities, English at Home, Grace Hosting, Headline posts, Volunteering|

Although we’re all still getting used to what Tier 5 means – it’s clear that we’ll be in it for at least a couple of months, so it feels right to communicate our thinking on things (so far) with a smile and a sigh and to hopefully provide some useful resources to help you in your volunteering. We’re really grateful to everyone who continues to give their time and support to the asylum seekers, refugees and other migrants we know. Your kindness, compassion and willingness to bend and flex are massively appreciated. Thank you on behalf of everyone that LASSN supports, the staff team, Trustees and everyone else who donates their time, money and goodwill. Jon Beech, Director What are the new Tier 5 Rules?  Here are the Government’s “Stay at Home” rules What does this mean for volunteering at LASSN? The Government summarise their current restrictions as message as “Stay Home”. We want our advice to be equally clear and consistent. So we are advising everyone - volunteers and the people they support - to be extremely cautious and to act as if they have the virus, and to avoid meeting up for the duration of the Tier 5 restrictions. The Government rules say I can leave the house for volunteering – so why can’t I meet up? Yes, it’s possible to argue this – but the situation is complicated: different volunteers and clients have different clinical vulnerabilities. (People from migrant backgrounds remain over-represented in the number of people contracting and dying of COVID). The rules for meeting up – even socially distanced and outside – are also not simple. For example, you can walk together, but you can’t sit down on a bench together. The person you wish to meet may not be able to bring children/dependents with them. There are also risks associated with travelling to and from an outdoors meeting place. If you believe someone really needs contact in person, please discuss this with your Volunteers Manager and we will work out how they can get the support they need. This is so upsetting and frustrating. Yes. It is. We are trying to do everything we can to help to support people as best we can, but the new strain of COVID makes it even more difficult than it was in March 2020. We also have a duty of care towards our volunteers and staff – so we cannot and will not ask you to put you (or the people you live with) at extra risk. So – what can we do? Staying in touch by phone is really really important. Texts and messaging are really good ways of staying in touch, and are sometimes easier than awkward conversations. Over Christmas we doubled the amount of support with phone costs from £10 per month to £20 per month. (there are PAYGO SIMs with unlimited calls/data/texts for £20 per month). We will continue to provide all LASSN volunteers and clients with up to £20 a month towards [...]

English At Home – A Review of 2020

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2021-01-06T17:15:14+00:0018th December, 2020|Categories: English at Home|

Each year, we write a summary of what we’ve been up to at English at Home, for our funders at The National Lottery. This year, we thought we’d share it a bit more widely.  It’s full of stories and inspiration.  Thank you and congratulations to all the learners, tutors, volunteers and supporters who make English at Home what it is. We are proud to know you all, and celebrate your immense achievements.  Tina and David 

Guidance for LASSN volunteers, at the end of Lockdown 2.0: 30th November 2020

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2021-01-06T17:16:13+00:0030th November, 2020|Categories: Headline posts, Volunteering|

When Leeds exits Lockdown 2.0 later this week, we will enter Tier Three or Very High Alert. Leeds City Council have published a detailed description of the restrictions in place, based on the National Guidance. They have also circulated a summary note here  for third sector organisations. In most respects, the local restrictions will go back to the way things were at the end of September 2020 - LASSN’s guidance to volunteers remains unchanged to the guidance we issued then. LASSN’s advice is Please do not meet up with the person you are matched with until the restrictions are lifted. Please maintain contact with the person you support by phone or by computer Please make sure they are getting the money available from LASSN to help with communications costs If you have worries or concerns about the person you are matched with, or think there is a need to see them face to face, please discuss this with your Volunteers Manager or the Director ASAP. All our numbers and emails are on lassn.org.uk/contact Some Leeds organisations like PAFRAS, Meeting Point and RETAS are partially open for face to face contact. We support them in opening to deliver their critical services. We remain acutely aware of the risks our volunteers and clients may pose to one another, as well as the difficulty and sadness brought about by sustained isolation and loneliness.  As a staff team we are also very frustrated by the inability to see or meet people. We are trying to strike a difficult balance, which does not amplify the risks faced by anyone connected with LASSN. LASSN will be providing all clients (and volunteers) with double phone credit for December 2020 (£20 instead of £10) to reflect the need to stay in touch with others over this difficult period. This is sufficient for unlimited PAYGO phonecalls, texts and data. I am sorry that the end of lockdown will not result in a change to our guidance, or allow for greater opportunities to meet face to face. I know a lot of you will feel frustrated and let down by this. But I feel sure that when Leeds enters Tier two (and eventually Tier one and No Tier whatsoever) that we be in a position to start facilitating face to face meetings once again – and will issue new guidance as quickly as we can. Thanks once again for your continued support and please do not hesitate to contact us if you have any questions, queries or comments. We hope you and those close to you remain safe and well Yours, Jon, Director 07845 298047 [email protected] (and Anna, Andrew, David, Emily, Hala, Jo, Rawand, and Tina too.)  

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