The ease of a bank card makes shopping and freedom of purchase so easy for so many of us. It is a privilege that we often take for granted. However, one of the many existing restrictions placed upon the lives of destitute refugees is that they have no access to any form of contactless payment, such as a credit card or bank account.
Remembering times before the coronavirus lockdown, JRS UK were able to provide cash grants at our Day Centre. These would cover bus passes and costs of specific needs such as baby items for families or special dietary requirements. Bus passes would allow for our refugee friends to travel to other places for food at local soup kitchens, churches or mosques. When COVID-19 first took hold of life in the UK, one of the first pieces of advice the public and retailers were given was to limit the use of cash as much as possible to reduce the risk of transmission, as well as discourage use of public transport. While this was the right advice, for our refugee friends this made a difficult situation untenable.
Help us support our refugee friends with food and toiletry parcels by donating to our Refugee Friends’ Hardship Fund today.
While many friends have been delighted to receive mobile phone credit top ups and deliveries of long-lasting food and toiletries, there were still many gaps.
The food parcels which have been so gleefully accepted by refugee friends would only go so far. They lacked fresh food, personal preferences and ingredients that didn’t always consider culture and personal taste. So discovering a pre-paid MasterCard which was secure, cashless and topped up by JRS remotely, was a welcome solution to the missing piece of emergency support.
JRS staff have since delivered more than 300 of these pre-paid cards across Greater London to refugees in need. Each fortnight we can top up £15 for each refugee friend to spend on whatever they need most. Now fresh food, personal items and more choice has been granted to our refugee friends. Parents are able to buy children-related crafts during the lockdown and another way to ensure dignity and independence during this prolonged period has been found.
This service is not a bank account, but a means to give our friends some agency and freedom to purchase.
Detailed instructions and over the phone support has been extended to all of our friends to ensure they feel comfortable and confident to use these cards, for some it is their first time using contactless payment methods. They have made a real difference, we know this through the feedback we hear from our refugee friends each week.
As we anticipate some easing to the current restrictions, we ask that you might remember the long road ahead before charities, like JRS UK, can accompany our destitute refugee friends. A donation of £30 can provide a refugee friend with next month’s hardship grant. We cannot continue without your help.
You can help us continue to deliver pre-paid Mastercards to refugees in need all over London.