Home>Jon Beech

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.

Back to Resources Homepage

LASSN, volunteering and the loosening of Lockdown

Resource Information

2020-07-25T15:01:00+01:0025th July, 2020|Categories: Volunteering|

We have been tremendously touched and impressed by the way LASSN volunteers have changed and adapted the way they offer support under social distancing. We’re particularly grateful for their flexibility and willingness to embrace new ways of volunteering  - phone, video and so on – even when it has not been easy. With the loosening of lockdown measures, we are concerned that you are no volunteers are exposed to any unnecessary risks in the course of their volunteering. The virus has not gone away, and still poses a danger to everyone. We still think Volunteers are best placed to decide how they want to volunteer We want to reassure volunteers that it is completely fine to continue to volunteer in a virtual non-face to face way. There are no expectations from LASSN that volunteers will want or need to meet with the person they are matched with. We will continue to try and support people to volunteer in the way that feels right and safe for them. Similarly, if a volunteer wishes to meet up with the person they support, we are happy to encourage this too – so long as volunteers have considered the following questions before they arrange to meet the person they are matched with. We’d prefer to have a conversation with volunteers about their answers before they make contact. Volunteers can do this by phoning your Volunteer Manager, or by attending one of our Monday Zoom Meetings. This conversation is the way we will support volunteers to manage the risks of meeting face to face (or side by side). It will be unique to them and their match. If a volunteer is unable to speak with a Volunteer Manager, or Jon (the Director), or they are unable to attend the Monday Zoom meetings at 11am (pw: 627340)  – we would like them to email and confirm that they have read and thought through the answers to the following questions. It is really important that we have a note of our conversations with volunteers, so that we can assure ourselves, our Governance and our insurers that we have taken reasonable steps to protect the people who volunteer with us, and the people they support. If volunteers choose to meet with the person they support without speaking with us first, this may cause difficulties for LASSN, if something goes wrong. Finally, LASSN recommends wearing a facemask when in close proximity to others, to help control the reduce the spread of c-19. We have mailed out an emergency pack of face coverings to all the people we currently support, along with instructions on how to make a face covering. We ask our volunteers to use their expenses to claim back the cost of buying reusable fabric facemasks for them and the person/people they support, up to the value of £3 each (They can be bought cheaply on ebay or made at home). Some questions we'd like volunteers to consider, before deciding to meet up Consider your health and the health of the person [...]

Refugee Week 2020 Day 5: Connecting Opportunities

Resource Information

2020-06-19T08:21:22+01:0019th June, 2020|Categories: Connecting Opportunities, Headline posts|

We’re using Refugee Week as a way to explain how the work of LASSN has changed during Lockdown. Each day we’re offering examples of how we’ve adapted what we do, to make sure asylum seekers and refugees and other migrants at risk of harm remain supported, empowered, and integrated. What's changed? Like all the other LASSN projects that depend on face to face contact and support, Lockdown has been very disruptive. New referrals have been put on hold and we've suspended volunteer recruitment until we can do this safely. However, we've also been able to ensure that people who are still waiting to be matched with a CO befriender have not been left on their own. We've trained and deployed existing volunteers to become temporary ‘CO Telephone Befrienders’ to make sure everyone on CO Befriending waiting list has some form of contact during lockdown. As cafes and trips out are no longer possible, Volunteer Befrienders are now reliant on phone contact, Whatsapp, or Zoom to keep in touch. Everyone has been offered extra phone credit to help to make this happen and some matches are speaking more regularly now they are not meeting face-to-face! We've developed a weekly peer-support session for all LASSN volunteers called ‘Monday Meet Up’ to help share ideas and sharpen our online support skills. The online learning resources developed by English at Home have been particularly useful for Befrienders looking for virtual activities to do with their Befriendee A few participants decided to postpone Befriending for the time being – because they are too busy with childcare responsibilities, or – due to the emotional strain of Covid-19 - they just don’t feel able to focus on Befriending right now Our ‘Tea and Talk’ sessions have moved online, thanks to the energy and enthusiasm of our brilliant volunteers. Taking a large-ish social group running in a massive cafe in town on line is no small feat - and takes a lot of energy to rapidly overcome the barriers of confidence, technical knowledge, and equipment to get online, get into the meeting, feel welcomed and supported and for it also to be fun! We've done this by focusing on what's important to the folks who attend tea and talk - using a ‘Tea & Talk’ Whatsapp group to make communication easier and to choose topics for conversation. We've also made us of a lot of visual aids to facilitate conversations, i.e. ‘Show and Tell’: sharing an object that is special to you with the group, and explaining why it's special; sharing decorations made during Ramadan, photos and recipes. “Thank you…You don’t know how much I enjoy these lovely two hour talks. Time really flies.” I’m Laura . I’m Egyptian. I have been in the UK since 2014. I came first to North Wales. I stayed 2.5 years there . I felt so lonely . I didn’t know anybody there. Nobody asked about me . I felt very depressed. After this my husband came to Leeds and started a [...]

Refugee Week 2020 Day 4: Befriending

Resource Information

2020-06-19T07:58:19+01:0018th June, 2020|Categories: Befriending, Headline posts|

We’re using Refugee Week as a way to explain how the work of LASSN has changed during Lockdown. Each day we’re offering examples of how we’ve adapted what we do, to make sure asylum seekers and refugees and other migrants at risk of harm remain supported, empowered, and integrated. What's changed? Lockdown came at a strange time for Befriending - we'd only just nicely completed and publicised our Evaluation of Befriending and made our plans for the next year, when all this was thrown up in the air. As social distancing was introduced (and Lockdown soon afterwards), Befrienders found that they could not longer meet with the person they were matched with, and faced the new challenge of how supporting someone they could no longer meet. After months and months of building confidence to to get out of the house, to share a cuppa in a cafe, and to maybe to meet new people - asylum seekers and refugees were suddenly being told to stay inside, and to socially distance from others. Our fledgling social groups were hit particularly hard. In the months running up to lockdown we had placed particular emphasis on developing and expanding our Meet and Connect project. The aim of Meet and Connect is to assist isolated asylum seekers and refugees to meet up with other people in cafe spaces across Leeds in order to buld their confidence, practice English and to find out more about (and eventially to connect with) their local neighbourhoods. Lockdown meant we could no longer meet up like we used to, and the key message from the project set up to combat isolation and loneliness was "Stay Home, Save Lives and Protect the NHS." So, like English at Home, Befriending has stopped taking new referrals for the time being, and to concentrate on maintaining contact with the people we already know, to ensure they have sufficient food and resources to keep body and soul together accurate and accessible information on the Pandemic, and the key Public Health messages sufficient phone credit, and digital devices to keep in contact with their volunteers, and other sources of support volunteers who are sufficiently trained and supported to make the leap from face to face to online and phone support. Our Digital Inclusion scheme (supplying phone credit, wifi dongles and smartphones) is a direct response to the loneliness and isolation experienced by people on low incomes during Lockdown. And with the help and support of Leeds City Council's 100% Digital team, the West Yorkshire Police and Crime Commisisoner and friends at Solidaritech we have managed to extend support far beyond LASSN's befriending and Meet and Connect participants. Nicolla, our volunteer has been receiving orders, packing up bundles of phones and SIMS and other tech before couriering them out to folk who need them.  We've set up regular Zoom calls (Monday Meetups) to help volunteers to grapple with the new technology and to build their confidence in maintaining meaningful relationships at a distance. This has not [...]

Refugee Week 2020 Day 3: Grace Hosting

Resource Information

2020-06-17T08:24:38+01:0017th June, 2020|Categories: Headline posts, Hosting|

We’re using Refugee Week as a way to explain how the work of LASSN has changed during Lockdown. Each day we’re offering examples of how we’ve adapted what we do, to make sure asylum seekers and refugees and other migrants at risk of harm remain supported, empowered, and integrated. What's changed? Since Lockdown, we've put Emergency/night-to-night Hosting on hold. Hosting has always been about what is do-able, and we will never put pressure on Hosts to host. Even so, we managed to get everyone we knew into longer-term placements before closing to new referrals. One of our Hosting Coordinators - who arrange matches on day to day basis - captured some of her thoughts during the last days before lockdown It’s become a cliche to say we are living in extraordinary times, but, we certainly are. In amongst the extraordinary anxiety and some extraordinary silliness, the extraordinariness of Grace hosting has come shining through. I had the pleasure of being Coordinator on a day when some of the restrictions on social contact and movement were beginning to kick in. It wasn’t easy, asking if volunteers were able to host that night. But every volunteer I contacted responded quickly and with care. Some were apologetic (absolutely no need to apologise) but because of their particular vulnerability, had to pull back from hosting. Others offered to host and, where they could, offered additional nights so that guests were shielded from having to move around. Everyone wanted to do what they could to help. This meant we started Lockdown with 10 people staying with Hosting households, and 4 people staying at the newly opened Grace House. We supplied guests with accessible information about COVID-19 and helped them to learn the new rules about social distancing, hand-washing, and their responsibilities to other members of their household. This was a big change. Our hosting guidance encouraged Guests to spend most of their days outside the house and to come back in the evening. Now, Hosts were asking Guests to stay at home all the time and to drastically reduce contact with the outside world. 3 months down the line, 4 of these arrangements are no longer in place - all 4 people have accommodation elsewhere (either with friends, relatives, or accommodated by the Council under the Everybody In arrangements) Lockdown meant that most hostels and night shelters were closed overnight, and the Council placed a total of 220 people into hotels, apartments, and other temporary accommodation. This included around 20 asylum seekers with No Recourse to Public Funds in a Hostel in Holbeck, 11 of whom had previously stayed in the WYDAN Nightshelter. Hosting During Lockdown A host writes My guest and I are both deemed vulnerable and are self isolating together. We sit in the garden in the mornings drinking posh coffee ie.percolated. We enjoyed the sun yesterday. I take out my papers and crosswords and he gets lots of calls from his friends who are lovely and all pass on good wishes to me. [...]

Refugee Week 2020 Day 2: English at Home

Resource Information

2020-06-15T19:49:54+01:0016th June, 2020|Categories: English at Home, Headline posts|

We're using Refugee Week as a way to explain how the work of LASSN has changed during Lockdown. Each day we're offering examples of how we've adapted what we do, to make sure asylum seekers and refugees and other migrants at risk of harm remain supported, empowered, and integrated. So what's changed? Three months ago, LASSN's English at Home project was the only way asylum seekers and refugees in Leeds could learn English at home. And of course, since lockdown, every ESOL class is held at home, which is kind of brilliant, but also comes with its own challenges. Sadly, we've had to put new referrals on hold for the time being, as well as suspending volunteer recruitment. We're doing this until we can work out the best way of assessing the level of English of people being referred, and checking out the skills of new volunteers - without being able to meet them face to face We're still managing to re-match learners with existing volunteers, and deploy some of the unmatched English at Home volunteers into new roles (as telephone befrienders), We've also been providing weekly skill-share drop-ins to help volunteers make the difficult transition from providing face-to-face learning and support to online learning. And, in addition to all of this, Riley has had to be furloughed (working from home isn't do-able whilst the schools are closed). Which basically means David has been holding the fort. Online learning resources, free for everyone We started lockdown by trying to support our English at Home matches to explore new ways of learning, and issuing new guidance to our volunteers on how to teach in socially distant ways. We also knew that without our help, many of the people we knew would not be able to afford to stay in touch with the person they were matched with  - so a key part of our strategy was to issue phone credit to all clients and volunteers who needed it. Since then. we've also been able to supply mobile phones, and laptops, and wifi dongles using our Digital Inclusion scheme with the support of our friends at Solidaritech. We've told you before about the hundreds of free teaching resources we've created posted online ( thanks to the diligence and hard work of Clive and Julie our online librarians. And since lockdown, we've added a whole new range of resources for Tutors and Learners who are not used to learning/teaching online - and which are designed to build confidence and to involve the whole family.  Our friend Daniela Prataviera created a half-hour webinar on Using online communication with low-level learners and we've either found or made accessible information about how to use Zoom David writes: Head to the Ideas and Activities section for numerous suggestions that can be used straight away with your learner. They can all be easily adapted to suit any level of learner, and can be used as a starter or whole lesson. Amy, one of our wonderful volunteers, has created Read Along [...]

Refugee Week 2020 Day 1: Digital Inclusion

Resource Information

2020-06-15T16:43:31+01:0015th June, 2020|Categories: Headline posts|

We're using Refugee Week as a way to explain how the work of LASSN has changed during Lockdown. Each day we're offering examples of how we've adapted what we do, to make sure asylum seekers and refugees and other migrants at risk of harm remain supported, empowered and integrated. How is LASSN working towards Digital Inclusion?* We try to look at Digital from the perspective of folks living in extreme poverty, who might struggle to find or to use kit for all kinds of reasons. A decision to “Go Digital” doesn’t necessarily include more people or reach those in need. Unless it’s carefully thought through, it can frequently exclude the very people you intended to help. When thinking about how we deliver our projects in non-face-to-face ways - our starting point is: “what’s the best way of building on what people already know and feel comfortable with?” This might be more phone calls to start with. It might be a WhatsApp chat. It might mean upgrading someone’s phone so they can look at the internet. It might mean building the confidence and knowledge of their volunteer, so the volunteer can suggest trying new things. We also have to work hard at planning our online contact and not just hoping things will happen naturally. If limited access to data means you have to choose between half an hour of Peppa Pig on YouTube and half an hour of Zoom call, the Zoom call has to be at least as interesting as Youtube for you AND the kids. So our contacts now assume we will be supporting not just individuals but other members of their household too. We’ve developed materials to help with this. And of course, like everything LASSN does, we put this online for free for anyone to use. We are committed to sharing our learning and make this all free and publicly available. We’ve worked with Solidaritech to distribute the tech they refurbish. This relationship has come into its own during Covid-19. Longer-term, we know we need a cross-sector structural response to digital inclusion, that takes into account the structural inequalities at play. Operation Wifi is campaigning for wifi to be made open access using existing broadband infrastructure. What support are you providing? At the start of Lockdown, we told all the people we support and all the people who support them that we would provide them with phone credit. If social distancing measures require us to limit our support to phone and video calls, we need to make sure people are connected.  We took the money we'd put aside to cover transport costs, or tea and a bun in a cafe somewhere, and provided phone-top ups instead. This has not been easy - each Network provider has their own individual systems - but we have gradually figured out the best of way of doing this. Internally, we are supporting volunteers and staff through training and peer group calls to grow confidence, share challenges and solutions to aid remote [...]

Corona virus Update for LASSN Volunteers 19th March 2020

Resource Information

2020-03-20T12:32:46+00:0019th March, 2020|Categories: Headline posts|

LASSN's projects have closed to new referrals from 19th March 2020, in response to corona virus. We will reopen to new referrals as soon as we are able. We continue to support existing clients and volunteer matches by phone, email and and encourage all the people we support to remain in contact throughout this difficult period. Up to date information on what's happening with other projects and services can be found on We offer the following advice to volunteers "I'm currently matched..." We are recommending that volunteers stop home visits for the time being. Please do keep in contact with the person you are matched with, and let us know how you are both getting on. Here are some ways that you can keep in touch with the person you are matched with: - Video calls (eg skype, whatsapp or similar) - Phone calls - Audio messages (these might be easier for the person you are matched with because they can pause and rewind messages until they understand them) - Text messages - Post (please don't give your home address to the person you are matched with, but you can send things like learning materials in the post) - Going for a walk together (you'd need to avoid travelling by public transport and make sure that you were 2 metres apart, and in the open air) We're postponing in-person reviews until the situation changes and we'll be in touch by phone with anyone who is due for a review. "The person I support can't afford to keep their phone topped up..." LASSN would like to offer all volunteers and clients £5 each, per month  - towards the costs of staying in touch by phone, video or whatever. We are trialling this for a couple of months to see how it goes (and to work out how if we can afford it in the medium-long term).But communication is so important, it feels like the right thing to do. if you are struggling to know how to top someone's phone up, please google it, or call us for help. To claim this money back, please keep receipts/bills and other evidence of spend and submit with an expenses form. Please don't give out a fiver and then ask for the money back, because we need some kind of audit trail. Even a photo of a makeshift hand written receipt is better than nothing. "I'm worried about the person I'm matched with..." If you are worried about your learner, please get in touch with us. We're reachable by email and phone as normal ( If there is an emergency, please contact the emergency services. "This whole volunteering thing is stressing me out..." It's a really difficult time right now, and all of us are experiencing a lot of uncertainty. If you are feeling like it's getting on top of you, please get in touch with us. It's much better to talk to someone and to be kind to yourself than to soldier on quietly. [...]

Friends of LASSN Newsletter, Winter 2019

Resource Information

2019-12-08T15:43:21+00:008th December, 2019|Categories: Uncategorised|

The Winter 2019 Edition of Friends of LASSN is out, with the usual mix of good news stories, organisational developments, policy briefings and photos. Click on this link, or the image below to get started