Mohammed came to the UK in February 2009 when he was 23 years old, after fleeing the Darfur region of Sudan.
He was placed in NASS (National Asylum Support Service) accommodation for 15 months whilst the authorities were considering his asylum application. During this time he was not allowed to apply for benefits or work. Mohammed was eventually granted refugee status and had to leave NASS.
Mohammed rented a flat for a year but couldn’t afford to stay there when housing benefit cuts for under-35 year olds came into effect. He became homeless. He lingered at his mosque in the evenings until midnight, but had to walk the streets until it opened again at 4am. He went to BHT Housing Advice and was referred to the Accommodation for Work Project.
Mohammed faced barriers to working as he had never worked in the UK and his English was very limited. His support worker made an employment plan with him and helped him access an English as a Second Language course. He studied for 6 months and achieved Entry Level 2 and 3 qualifications, which gave him more confidence to apply for jobs and attend interviews.
To address his lack of work experience we referred him to Business Action on Homelessness and he completed a three week work placement at Marks & Spencer. M&S were so impressed they offered him paid work for three months over the Christmas holiday period.
When he finished his contract Mohammed kept himself busy with courses and training. The project referred him to do an Emergency First Aid at Work course and he also studied to gain a CSCS card, which would enable him to work in the construction industry.
Mohammed was offered work as a security officer working at different supermarkets around the city.
Mohammed was really happy to have a job, but found that starting work had additional challenges. He didn’t have the proper clothes for work and couldn’t afford to buy them, so the project helped him with that and some of his initial travel costs so that he was able to accept the job. He struggled when he was increasingly assigned to work outside the city. He found it difficult to afford travel costs and many of his shifts ended after the buses had finished.
His keyworker provided in-work support by helping him contact the agency and request that he be based in Brighton, which was agreed. He was also on a zero hour contract which made it very difficult for him to budget as his income changed every week. Again, his keyworker supported him to speak to the agency and explain the problems the zero hour contact created. They were able to offer him set hours, which meant he could manage his income well. His keyworker also supported him to apply for working tax credits.
Now that he was in stable employment and managing his finances, Mohammed’s keyworker helped him prepare for moving on from the project and having his own tenancy again. In May 2013 he moved to a BHT general needs flat. He’s still in the same job and is enjoying having his own flat.
He said that being in the project improved his confidence and self-esteem and having help with applying for college and work were the best bits.