We are Breaking Barriers, and our vision is for all refugees to acquire the knowledge, confidence and experience they need to secure stable, fulfilling employment that matches their skills and qualifications.
We offer flexible, bespoke 1:1 employment advice and guidance in a number of locations across London, as well as free English language, ICT and numeracy classes. We also partner with over 20 businesses who offer sector-specific advice in the form of workshops and mentoring, together with paid work placements and permanent job opportunities.
We are raising money to open a new Delivery Centre in North London to provide employment support to refugees. The new centre will help us to serve refugees in the local area and surrounding communities that are currently unable to access our services. To date, we have supported over 1000 refugees from our Delivery Centres in South, East and West London, but we know that there is a vital need for our support in North London.
The need for a North London Delivery Centre: Andrew’s Story
When we opened our Delivery Centre in Hammersmith last year, clients in West London like Andrew who had previously been unable to travel to access our services were then able to receive our Employment support. Breaking Barriers supported Andrew onto a six month paid placement with one of our partners, Ipsos Mori, where he is now working in a permanent role. We know that there are hundreds of refugees in North London and the further surrounding areas who cannot currently access our support.
"I did my first degree in Nigeria and came to the UK to study my master’s. After my degree I went home but faced difficulty with the police after the Nigerian government introduced a law making homosexuality illegal. I was threatened with arrest and was scared for my life. When I returned to London for my graduation ceremony I applied for asylum and was lucky to be granted refugee status within around 7 months.
Whilst I waited for my status I was unable to work so when I was finally able to apply for jobs I was lacking in confidence. I also faced a significant barrier because I had no experience of interviewing for professional roles.
When I joined Breaking Barriers in Hammersmith the first thing I was asked was ‘What are your long-term goals?’. I told them I wanted to become a project manager and, together with my Employment and Integration Adviser, I worked towards this goal. My Adviser helped me to focus on the kind of roles that I needed to apply for, as well as helping me with mock interviews, and improving my cover letter and CV. I live in West London so it made a big difference for me to attend Hammersmith as it wasn’t too far to travel from my home.
My Adviser helped me to access workshops to improve my interview technique and also told me about a 6-month placement opportunity with Ipsos Mori. We looked at the role and job description together, and the kind of skills and knowledge I would acquire, and I realised it would be a big help in achieving my long-term goal. After the 6-months my confidence was much greater, my IT skills had improved and my communication skills are also much stronger. I was lucky enough to be offered a permanent position after my placement.
I owe a great deal of gratitude to Breaking Barriers for the tremendous support they provided me with. The help I received from my Adviser and through workshops really helped me regain confidence in my ability to build a career. It was also great to have a one-to-one relationship with my Adviser in Hammersmith. I always knew there was someone I could talk to, who understood my background and my goals, and who could direct me onto the right path. Thanks to Breaking Barriers I now work in a company I love and in a role within which I will gain valuable experience. I hope their work continues as there are many more like me seeking opportunities to help them reach their goals.”
At Breaking Barriers, we need your help to open a North London Delivery Centre and support hundreds more refugees like Andrew.
There are over 374,000 people living in the UK who came here as refugees, and 53% of these live in London. Refugees face great hardship fleeing war, violence and persecution - however, this physical journey is just the beginning. Those that reach the UK face significant marginalisation and disadvantage. We know that refugees can and do make valuable contributions to society, and that employment is the most important factor in helping them integrate into their new home.
Refugees face a number of barriers to employment, including: long gaps on CVs due to lengthy asylum processes; insufficient language skills; lack of understanding of the UK job market and UK workplace culture, and misplaced employer perceptions of hiring refugees.
“Before I joined Breaking Barriers' IT class, I didn't know how to turn on a computer. In the class, I learnt how to send emails, use Word, send photos and make PowerPoint presentations…I now know how to find a job by searching online. Breaking Barriers were like a family. They welcomed me and have given me so much confidence” (Elizabeth, BB client).
Our BB Employment programme offers bespoke, comprehensive, 1:1 employment support to refugee clients. This is delivered by our trained employment and integration advisers, who speak a variety of languages including Arabic, Amharic, Tigrinya and Farsi, and several of whom come from refugee backgrounds themselves. Each two hour session with a refugee will cover topics such as CV and cover letter support, interview practice, identifying suitable jobs, and a discussion of long-term career plans.
This sits alongside our comprehensive BB Education programme, which includes English classes at seven different levels (from pre-beginner to advanced business writing) and ICT and numeracy classes to prepare refugees for the workplace. We ensure that class sizes are kept small in order to fully support each client.
Our BB Prospects programme gives a central role to businesses, involving them directly in creating employment opportunities for refugees. Our corporate partners (including IKEA, Bank of America, Mayer Brown and Western Union) offer bespoke paid work placements to help refugees rebuild their lives and gain vital UK work experience. Our innovative approach has never been delivered successfully or at scale in the UK by any other organisation. Our corporate partners also offer permanent paid jobs to our refugee clients.
Samer came to the UK from Syria in 2016. He was supported by Breaking Barriers into a job at IKEA, where he has recently received a promotion. He tells his story in this video, describing his colleagues as being 'like family'.
Our programme transforms the lives of refugees. Since we were founded in 2015 we have supported more than 1000 refugees and formed partnerships with more than 20 businesses across London. In the year ending May 2019:
- We supported 572 clients.
- 56% of clients who actively engaged with our support achieved an outcome (entering employment, education, volunteering or training) – where EU guidelines state that a successful programme of this sort would achieve a rate of 33%.
- 94% of clients reported that our support increased their confidence.
- 46 of our clients gained work experience with our corporate partners.
- We were supported by 424 volunteers.
With your help, we can support hundreds more refugees living in North London and the surrounding areas, who are currently unable to access our services. We will deliver our bespoke, intensive Employment support from this new centre, which is the cornerstone to our work and will help some of the most marginalised people in society to rebuild their lives through stable, fulfilling employment that matches their skills and qualifications.