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Project information

Therapeutic casework for traumatised refugees

Based in London, the Refugee Council operates an assessment, referral and casework service for refugees and asylum seekers with mental health needs. We have helped well over 3,000 refugees in the past nine years - people who have been completely overwhelmed by their experiences of persecution.

April 2011 - April 2013

Charity information: Refugee Council

Refugee Council logo
  • Need


    Refugees from Zimbabwe, the Congo, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan and Iran have complex needs arising from the after effects of torture, rape, violent incidents, loss of family members, home, culture, lack of recognition in society; and anxiety about loved ones left at home or missing. In the UK they face a complex and confusing asylum system, many people are forced into poverty.


    Our approach, Therapeutic Casework, combines advocacy for practical needs (housing, welfare, asylum status, health access) with counselling skills. This range of support is provided by one consistent caseworker. This is the most effective model of working with vulnerable people - tangible changes give real hope that they can build a new life. We also run a project for refugee women and a family therapy service. On average it takes 12 sessions to help someone move out of extreme distress.

  • Aims

    Aim 1

    Maintain capacity to support 500+ individuals a year and not have to turn people away.


    » Maintain staff capacity to support indivduals with mental health needs, may be suffering from PTSD and who may have experienced totrure and/or rape

    What success will look like

    Every person in extreme distress at our London service is able to access therapeutic casework and benefit from practical intervention with therapeutic support.

  • Impact


    By raising awareness of our model with mainstream health and social workers, and by continuing to train mainstream professionals in our approach, our long term goal is to lobby to ensure that this model is widely-recognised as the most effective means of supporting refugees with mental health difficulties and so more widely used. Initial success would be NHS recognition of the effectiveness of this model.


    The main risk is that cuts to public services will increase demand for our therapeutic casework at the same time as reducing the willingness of mainstream health and social services to consider funding our model. The other risk to this work is that funding comes in fits and starts, but continutiy of this service for our clients is vital.


    We will report with written updates including data on those people who were supported, where they come from, and the progress they have made.

  • Budget

    Budget - Project Cost: £39,511

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      Amount Heading Description
      £17,108 Salary for part time therapeutic caseworker
      £8,450 Professional fees Interpreters for therapeutic caseworker and volunteers, and professional clinical supervision
      £2,000 Travel expenses for the volunteers and staff
      £2,703 Office costs IT, mobile phones, monitoring, audit
      £3,000 Travel expenses for clients
      £3,250 Premises London, Brixton
      £3,000 Management plus contribtion to lobbying and policy
  • Background


    Brixton is the location of the Refugee Council One Stop Advice Service, Day Centre, and children's services. It is on a direct bus route from Lunar House Croydon where refugees must register with the Home Office. The therapeutic services are accessible to anyone who arrives distressed or becomes distressed at the Refugee Council and the only reason the service is limited is funding and staffing levels. We also take referrals from other charities working with refugees and asylum seekers.


    Currently the top three countries for clients are Iran, Sri Lanka and Afghanistan. Other main groups are refugees from Zimbabwe, Somalia, and Eritrea. Refugee populations fluctutate according to international conflict situtations. Many refugees arriving in the UK have experienced considerable trauma in their home countries. Over a third of clients we work with have suffered torture and/or rape, and many more will have witnessed violence and the torture of family and friends.

  • Why Us?

    Why Us?

    The Refugee Council has been providing therapeutic services to refugees who are suffering from trauma and overwhelming loss for over 10 years. We are an established and independently evaluated centre of expertise, with an effective and targeted intervention that addresses both the practical needs of refugees (accommodation, food, navigating a complex asylum system) and at the same time addressing their mental health needs.

    Read more about the Charity running this project.


    Arnaud Vervoitte

    Senior Operations Manager, London

    Angelina Jalonen

    Senior Therapuetic Caseworker