Accompaniment underpins the holistic model of support provided by JRS


Accompaniment underpins the holistic model of support provided by JRS

Michelle, Destitution Casework Assistant, explains the relevance of accompaniment in casework

09 January 2024

Accompaniment underpins the holistic model of support provided by JRS

I got into casework because I wanted to contribute to practical efforts to resist the Hostile Environment, and to stand in meaningful solidarity with those affected by it. Specifically, after completing an MSc in International Migration and Public Policy, I knew that I wanted to work to combat the ways in which the immigration and asylum system systematically enforces precarity, often realised as destitution and homelessness, amongst those without secure immigration status. I thus pursued casework as a direct avenue through which to challenge and resist Home Office-enforced precarity, working with clients to find pathways out of destitution and homelessness, and to access justice.  

Casework is of course client-centred, focusing on and responding to the specific circumstances and needs of each person. It requires seeing each client as a ‘full’ ‘rounded’ person, and therefore never assuming what is best for them, as we recognise that people are not affected by policies uniformly. This requires a certain depth of engagement, and achieving this depth of engagement takes time. 

Yet, since coming to casework a little under a year ago now, I have found that, collectively, it can be easy to slip into ‘firefighting’ mode – feeling like you are jumping from crisis to crisis, as the Home Office continuously rolls out legislation designed to make those seeking safety evermore vulnerable on a regular basis. (One might think, for example, of the shortening of the refugee grant move-on period to 7 days, which has unnecessarily exacerbated enforced homelessness amongst newly recognised refugees).  

And while firefighting is of course a natural response to fires, operating in firefighting mode can put pressure on your capacity to fully engage with each client at any given time. Indeed, when you feel like you are jumping from fire to fire, it can be easy to only see the issues to  address and the crises to respond to, and to thereby lose space for engagement beyond those issues and crises in the day-to-day.  

Against this context (of conducting casework within, but in resistance to, the Hostile Environment), I have been deeply inspired by the emphasis that JRS places on accompaniment as a core component of its praxis. JRS’ ethos of accompaniment – of walking alongside refugee friends as they move through the brutal challenges of the asylum system – invites you to continually make space for fuller and more holistic engagement with each person. And from my time at JRS so far, it is evident to me that it is indeed this ethos of accompaniment that underpins the holistic model of support at JRS, whereby support provision is innately person-centred rather than only problem-centred; with refugee friends able to access varied yet integrated avenues of support, including legal, destitution, accommodation, befriending, activity, and practical support.  

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Jesuit Refugee Service UK
The Hurtado Jesuit Centre
2 Chandler Street, London E1W 2QT

020 7488 7310

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