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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LASSN and support for Ukrainian people

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2022-03-15T17:56:24+00:0015th March, 2022|Categories: Headline posts, Refugee|

LASSN Trustees met this week to discuss LASSN's response to the events unfolding in Ukraine and how we can be of most use to the people who have been displaced.  LASSN are pleased that UK Government is opening safe and legal routes to safety for Ukrainian people, and hope that similarly safe and legal routes to the UK will be extended to all refugees. What is LASSN doing to support Ukrainian people? LASSN exists as a way for citizens of Leeds to extend a welcome and practical support to all people seeking sanctuary in our City. And when Ukrainian people arrive in Leeds, LASSN will be pleased to offer them the help we extend to all refugees and migrants at risk of harm, wherever they are from. In the coming months, LASSN's focus will be on maintaining and developing the support we offer to all refugees, asylum seekers and other migrants at risk of harm. We will continue to offer support and encouragement to other groups and third sector partners who want to help - and we continue to support Leeds City Council as they coordinate the resettlement of refugees from Ukraine, Syria, Afghanistan and elsewhere. How can I support Ukrainian people? If you wish to provide specific practical assistance to Ukrainian people, here is a list of ways you can help. How can I support LASSN’s work? Although we currently support 200 volunteers and 300 migrant households, most of our projects are already at capacity (or very close). This means that we are not taking on new volunteers for Grace Hosting, English at Home and Befriending until we can afford to train and support these volunteers properly. We will re-open our volunteer programmes when we have secured the money to expand them. In the meantime, if you wish to help us to support all refugees and asylum seekers, you can donate here if you are able to do so. Is there anything else I can do? We hope that the recent events in Ukraine will help more people be aware of the changes outlined in the Government's Nationalities and Borders Bill. As Alison Lowe, the Deputy Mayor for Police and Crime, put it recently: “In West Yorkshire, we have a long and proud history of welcoming those who are in need or who are fleeing persecution and war. The Nationality and Borders Bill is racist, pure and simple, and I oppose it.” If you feel the same way, Refugee Action have some excellent guidance on contacting your MP as do #togetherwithrefugees We are also pleased that people who volunteer with LASSN are making their voices heard - like Suhaiymah Manzoor-Khan’s recent opinion piece in the Guardian where she critiques how both politicians and journalists have approached the Ukrainian War and the deep-seated Islamophobia that lies behind some of the actions and statements of some commentators and policymakers. Thank you to all our volunteers, supporters and well-wishers – and to everyone who shares LASSN’s vision that asylum seekers and refugees will be safe, respected, supported and empowered to rebuild [...]

Friends of LASSN, Winter 21

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2021-12-02T15:38:10+00:002nd December, 2021|Categories: Headline posts|Tags: , , |

It's been far too long since we last gave you an update about what's happening at LASSN, and the difference your support makes to the lives of people seeking refuge and other migrants at risk of harm. We hope you enjoy reading it.* Season's Greetings from everyone at LASSN Photo Credit: Ben Bentley, Leeds List *all of it, some of it, scroll to the pictures you like or simply click on the links. There's so much we could talk about - sometimes it's about deciding what to leave out as much as deciding what to leave in.

Updated Guidance for Volunteers – December 2021

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2021-12-02T13:30:20+00:002nd December, 2021|Categories: Volunteering|Tags: , |

Earlier this week, the UK Government announced new measures to help combat the spread of new strains of COVID. What does this mean for volunteers at LASSN? Can I visit the person I'm matched with in their home? The legal answer is yes, there are no legal restrictions stopping you from visiting. The LASSN answer is still "obey the law, and consider your own circumstances and the person you are visiting." That's no good. I want to know what LASSN thinks. Should I or shouldn’t I? Please look again at our guidance from Lockdown 1 on March 20  and Lockdown 2 in July 21: these ask you to consider what is right for you (underlying risks, vaccine status) before reaching a decision to meet face to face. If you do not feel comfortable with the risk of travelling and meeting up, please do not. If you think the risks are manageable for you, please be clear about your own bottom lines (Outside only? With Masks? Indoors with masks and windows open) before you talk about meeting up with the person you are matched with. And if you want to change the way you have been volunteering recently, please contact your Volunteer Manager. They will help you explore options; this may include a return to remote contact and support from LASSN with phone data as we have done before The person I'm matched with doesn't know about/seem bothered by the new variant and wants things to carry on as normal. If this is the case, talk to your Volunteer Manager. We trust your judgement, but we have a duty of care to you and the person you are matched with. Whatever happens next, we want to make sure you are both clear about what is happening and why - to avoid confusion or upset. The person I see doesn't want me to visit. What should I do? If the person doesn't want to see you, don't. Please speak to your Volunteers Manager, who will help you to plan the next steps. Next steps? That sounds vague. The next steps could be a number of things: meeting outside, going back to Zoom/phone calls and texts, but it will probably involve a more in-depth conversation with the person you're matched with - to understand their concerns and plan accordingly. It may be the person wishes to end the match. We won't know until we explore it with them - but this might be easier with a Volunteer Manager involved. It's what we're there for. So are all LASSN Staff back at work in the office? Will you be closing the offices? We're all dividing our time between the office and working from home. We've decided not to arrange any new gatherings - training, socials, parties, get-togethers - and we are treating all planned events on a case by case basis. We are only going into the office to do things that can’t be done by Zoom. And we’re limiting face to face meetings – [...]

“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 [...]

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