Information for home visitors
Home visitors are a vital part of our work.
Everyone hosting through Refugees at Home will meet one of our experienced home visitors first. Their role is to assess a host’s home, offer advice, answer any questions and represent Refugees at Home at the initial stage of a host’s journey with us.
The guidance below aims to equip home visitors with all the information you need when preparing for a home visit. Home visitors will also receive regular updates from us via email, so please let us know if you aren’t getting this – and remember you can contact the Outreach team at any time with any questions you have.
Before the home visit
The R@H Outreach team will contact you when we have a home visit in the area you are able to cover. For the most part home visits take place in person but can also be virtual. Please confirm as soon as possible if you are willing to take on the home visit so that we can have hosts ready to welcome guests as quickly as possible. Don’t worry if you aren’t available this time, we will be back in contact with you.
Once you’ve accepted the home visit request, we will connect you with the host via our portal so that you can arrange a mutually convenient time for the visit.
When you book the appointment to see the host you may want to let them know:
- how long the visit is likely to last
- who you need to meet with
- anything they can do to prepare for the visit.
Before your visit, please make sure hosts have made everyone in the household aware of the application to Refugees at Home. If a potential host has adult housemates we will seek to speak to them before approving the application. We want everyone involved in a placement to be comfortable from the outset.
Carrying out your home visit
Our Outreach team will give you a home visit guidance document before you carry out your home visit, which will guide you through the things that we need to know. Please make sure you have this with you – email us if you need a copy. Please also make sure you are aware of the Refugees at Home Lone Working Policy and that someone else knows where you are visiting and when.
Some home visitors take notes as they speak to hosts, others do not – find out what works best for you, but do bear in mind that you will be asked to complete a home visit report via our portal following your visit.
Remember that you don’t need to tell the potential host the outcome of your visit while you are there, as decisions will only be made after references have been taken.
What to talk about during the home visit
Of course, all potential hosts will have different questions about Refugees at Home and who they may host in the future. The chances are the answers to their questions are in our host resources and our FAQs page, but here are some of the questions our home visitors are asked most often.
How long will it be until I host someone?
This is a hard question to answer as our work is guest-led. If a host is based in a major city and open to hosting a variety of guests it is likely our team will approach them very quickly. If the host is based in a more rural location it may take more time
Who will R@H place with a host?
Once approved, a host will be approached about guests who match their preferences. For example, if a host tells us they are not comfortable hosting someone who is not vaccinated against Covid, we would not approach them with an unvaccinated guest. Hosts can always update their hosting preferences on our portal once they have been approved.
There are some rules we have in place, however. We will never place a female guest with a single male host – this is to make everyone feel safe and to avoid any uncomfortable situations for guests or hosts. We do not host people with serious or severe mental health conditions, those with a serious criminal conviction or any person with a current substance abuse condition.
What a host does
All hosts are different, and the needs of guests will vary too. So, this answer to this really is ‘it depends’. For some hosts, they will simply provide a room in which a guest can stay and will have very little interaction with their guest otherwise. For others, guest and host may share meals or trips out and for others, particularly when you are hosting a self-referred guest, you may find that you will signpost your guests to other organisations who may be able to assist them. The host can ask their Placement Coordinator any questions they may have in this regard. In short, we will never ask a host to do anything they are not comfortable to do.
Finding out about guests
When the R@H Placement team gets in contact with a host about a potential guest they will share with them everything they need to know. This might include information about any medical issues, gender, age, immigration status and character references.
We don’t ask about a guest’s religious or moral beliefs. Sometimes referrers give us this information and we will share this with prospective hosts if we have it. We do not ask our guests about their story, and we ask that hosts don’t either. Guests will offer this information if and when they feel comfortable to do so. Our position is that people do not leave their homes for no reason. Beyond that, we leave it to the Home Office to decide on the validity of any asylum claim.
It is important to discuss finance with potential hosts, and please point them to our Finances information sheet which contains lots of advice. Many guests will have no, or limited access to finance. If hosts can provide some meals, that can be helpful for some. Some hosts provide travel cards too. This helps a guest to maintain contacts, to get to appointments and not to be isolated.
R@H offers a bursary to supplement the cost of hosting where a guest is not in receipt of any funds. This is to be used at the host’s discretion. Some hosts use the bursary to cover additional costs such as food. However, many of our hosts feel they do not need this bursary and so they claim it and pass on to their guest for use on things like travel. This is particularly relevant if a guest is placed in a less urban location or must attend multiple appointments.
One of the very difficult things for refugees and asylum seekers is the low level of income and the high level of insecurity of their situations. As such, it can be tempting to draw up an ‘agreement’ between guest and host, sometimes even with financial amounts in it for benefits purposes. While done with the best of intentions, this can create enormous problems.
We need to make clear to hosts how important it is that they neither accept money from their guests, nor sign anything that could be construed as a tenancy agreement. We are about altruistic hosting in principle – but it’s also for the protection of both guests and hosts. Our guests are just that, guests, and don’t have the right to stay in a host’s home – but if the host accepts money or signs anything suggesting there is a tenancy, this can cause serious problems. It is very important that hosts are not expecting rent or services from their guests in return for their room as, due to recent changes in immigration law, guests must not make any financial contribution to the household, which could be viewed as rent.
A guest who is earning may want to contribute – and doing some household shopping, for example, may be wholly appropriate.
It is important to note that not all guests have the right to work.
Talking about the power balance between host and guest
No matter how open and welcoming a host is, there will always be a power imbalance between host and guest.
During your home visit it is important to discuss the fact that refugees and asylum seekers are, by definition, vulnerable. When we think about someone being ‘vulnerable’ we often take it to mean someone who doesn’t have agency or capacity to act for themselves. This certainly doesn’t apply to those we host, but they are in a complicated legal and personal situation, often having endured very difficult circumstances that has left them with very complex things to work through; and all this in an alien country and culture. Hosts need to be very aware of their power and consider how this might affect their relationship with the guest.
Care should be taken about developing any relationship beyond that of host and guest and to think through what consent might mean to the guest. This is particularly important in terms of sexual relationships, which are not appropriate.
This also extends to business relationships or any financial agreements. We believe that these are highly unlikely to be appropriate and, as noted above, there are significant legal risks if hosts accept any rent or payment which might be construed as rent from guests. Very intense friendships can also be problematic – a host might be making a very genuine offer of help or friendship, but the guest may well feel very powerless and obliged to agree as a result.
After the home visit
Please complete your home visit assessment as soon as possible, via your portal log in. Please get in contact with the Outreach team if you are having any problems with this. Some home visitors have found that editing a report after submissions can cause an issue, so you may be more comfortable writing out the report in full and either copy and pasting this or sending this over to us.
We may also ask you to get in contact with a potential host’s referees. If we ask you to do this, details will be provided to you.
When making your report to us please do include as much detail as possible, and don’t hesitate to say if you have any reservations about the suitability of the applicant for hosting. If you would prefer to talk to us about this directly, just get in contact.
We will let you know if we approve or don’t approve the host you have home visited, and it is up to you how much contact you wish to retain with the host. Some home visitors simply carry out the visit, others are happy to stay in contact – we’ll be guided by you on what you would prefer.
If you’re happy to stay in contact with the host, we will copy you into any placement introductions that are made. If you’d prefer not to receive these just let us know.
Some hosts may reach out to you directly, please do remember that any issues or incidents should be reported to the Placement or Outreach team directly too, so get in contact with them via firstname.lastname@example.org
We will keep in contact with you between home visit requests with information about training opportunities, news and updates, and we always appreciate hearing your feedback and suggestions.
Please know how grateful we are to all of our wonderful home visitors – we really couldn’t do it without you!