Charity Awards 2024

Islington Mind

Establishing a safe place and support for LGBTQIA+ asylum seekers and refugees

Islington Mind’s unique, London-wide project, Freedom From Fear To Love, supports around 100 LGBTQIA+ asylum seekers and refugees every year. Through the service, clients improve their chances of being successfully granted asylum in the UK and find tailored, specialist support throughout their move-on process.

Islington MindOver 70 UN member states still criminalise same-sex acts, and six have the death penalty. LGBTQIA+ asylum seekers and refugees experience years of legal and cultural persecution and escape their home countries carrying significant trauma. The current cost-of-living crisis is putting additional pressure on this group, who often struggle to afford basic goods, while statutory services are oversubscribed and cannot meet their specific needs.

In 2016, the charity’s London-wide LGBTQIA+ support project, Outcome, had been running for over 15 years. It noticed that an increasing number of refugees and asylum seekers were referring for practical support and a safe place to socialise without fear. The Outcome team expanded to include specialist support workers and volunteers and establish relationships with specialist groups and organisations to help promote the service in hard-to-reach communities.

During 2022, the project provided 48 weekly in-person drop-in sessions, and over 180 weekly peer support groups and activities. Some 75 clients received help during their challenging asylum application processes, including assistance with application forms, writing letters and gathering evidence, along with emotional support. Fifteen newly granted refugee status clients received support with accessing stable accommodation and housing solutions, while seven were supported to access their welfare benefit entitlements. Sixteen individuals not entitled to access public funds or the right to work were successfully supported to apply for small grants for emergency food and other basics such as medication and fuel.

Charity Awards judge Richard Hawkes said Islington Mind had identified and plugged a real gap in service provision for a highly vulnerable group.

Judge Karin Woodley added: “This is a really difficult issue that sometimes people can’t even talk about with their own families, particularly for trans or non-binary refugees. The fact that Mind has taken this on is really groundbreaking and will have a real impact across the sector in terms of awareness. I celebrate them for being brave enough to do it.”

CC Reg no. 294535