Bread & Roses was set up to address the social and financial isolation experienced by many women who come to the UK to seek refuge.

Despite the Home Office’s claim that most asylum seekers will receive a decision on their application within six months of arriving in the UK,  it’s far more common to wait closer to ten years before being granted refugee status. While they wait, women such as those Bread & Roses supports receive around £5 a day to live on and are forbidden from leaving the country or taking up paid employment.

Whilst all of these conditions can do real damage to the person seeking asylum, the negative impact of being denied the right to work, in particular, both to the individual and the economy, cannot be overstated. The social and financial isolation many experience as a result of long-term unemployment can create incredible strain and do lasting damage to a person’s  self-confidence and mental wellbeing. On top of this, while waiting to be granted the right to work, women are actively missing out on the opportunity to gain skills and develop an understanding of the UK job market. It is a cruel irony that by the time they are finally granted the right to work, many have lost the confidence needed to gain employment.

The Refugee Integration and Employment Service (REIS), a national service designed to support people from refugee backgrounds into work, was dismantled in 2011. Since then, organisations  such as Transitions LondonBreaking Barriers have attempted to make up some of the shortfall by providing much ­needed support to refugees seeking work.

To address the multiple ways in which the asylum process can harm a woman’s ability to secure and maintain employment, Bread & Roses provides workshop participants with both practical and emotional support. As well as offering employability sessions, which deal directly with the unfamiliarity many women have with the UK labour market, we also offer floristry workshops. The relaxed atmosphere fostered in the floristry workshops often gives way to conversations that help us understand the ways in which a woman may be suffering. This enables us to identify and address support needs that go beyond writing CV’s, filling in job applications and practising for interviews.

All the flowers created in our floristry workshops are then sold to local businesses, with the proceeds being used to fund our programme, which offers community and much-needed support to some of London’s most vulnerable women.