The History of Action Foundation
2021 was a year of transition for Action Foundation both as we continued to support our clients through the pandemic, but also with a change in leadership. Our founder, Julian Prior, decided to step down as CEO and Duncan McAuley took over the leadership of the charity. Between 2020/21 we supported 1,700 people from 76 different countries.
The Covid-19 pandemic massively affected the lives of our beneficiaries and changed the way we delivered some of our services to ensure that isolated and vulnerable refugees, asylum seekers and other migrants living in Tyne and Wear were still able to access the help they needed.
During the first lockdown our English lessons moved out of the classrooms and learners were supported remotely with online classes and resources, as well as paper materials and phone calls. InterAction Drop-in re-opened after the first lockdown and adapted by creating a safe space for beneficiaries by reducing the number of people, operating a one way system, the use of PPE and perspex screens.
While our Accommodation Services continued throughout the year, sadly our Action Hosting project was put on hold temporarily to ensure the safety of both hosts and guests through the uncertainty of the ongoing pandemic.
In June, Action Foundation was honoured with the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service, the highest award a voluntary group can receive in the UK. It was a fitting recognition for the tireless work of our large team of over 200 dedicated volunteers, many of whom have lived experience of the asylum system.
We celebrated our tenth anniversary!
February saw the launch of our first Gift of Words appeal to support our English language classes at a special event ‘Taking Action for Integration’ led by our guest speaker and Patron, Maurice Wren, CEO of The Refugee Council.
A Gift of Words Charity Dinner Dance took place in the June at which we welcomed our The Bishop of Durham as our after-dinner speaker.
In October we scored a double-win at the North East Charity Awards taking home both the North East Charity of the Year award, along with our founder, Julian Prior, being recognised as Charity Leader of the Year.
Over the course of the year we supported 1413 refugees, asylum seekers and other migrants through our housing and language projects (27% more than the previous year).
Through our pilot project LET (Learn English Together), that supports other organisations to deliver English classes to migrants, we trained five other organisations involving 53 volunteers and delivered 79 sessions.
In August we moved our base in Sunderland from The Place to number 90 Coronation Street which is also the home of several other charities. With extra space, this building has enabled us to increase our provision of free English classes in Sunderland.
In partnership with Westgate Baptist Church, we opened a new house for asylum seekers with no recourse to public funds and were able to provide three more vulnerable people with some much needed stability.
We were chosen by The Lord Mayor of Newcastle, Councillor David Down, to be one of his two chosen charities for 2018/2019.
In August 2017 we opened our first purchased property increasing the capacity of Action Letting. This was made possible through a grant award, a low-interest loan and the generosity of two individual donations. We provided over 1,000 nights of accommodation to destitute asylum seekers through our Action Hosting project.
In September 2017 we started developing the Learn English Together (LET) project. This pilot project supported small community groups and churches to deliver their own English language sessions.
Action Hosting launched in May 2016. This project matched volunteer hosts offering a spare room in their home, with destitute asylum seekers for an agreed period of time. Through living with a host family they were provided with safe and secure accommodation, the opportunity to increase their stability and be supported by our Action Housing support workers to explore their future housing options.
In 2015/2016 we expanded our Action Letting, Housing and Action Language projects into Sunderland. We also launched our second social enterprise, Action Language PRO, which provided fee-paying professional English courses which contributed financially towards the delivery of our free classes.
In December 2015 we were one of five charities to be awarded a national Guardian Charity Award out of over 1,200 entries. You can view our winners film here!
In 2014 we were one of six charities to win a national Centre for Social Justice Award recognising our work addressing poverty and disadvantage. This was the first time our work had been recognised so publicly and was a great achievement for the whole team!
We launched Action Letting, our first social enterprise to generate surplus income for our charitable work and meet related social needs. Action Letting provides accommodation and support to new refugees and helps prevent homelessness as they transition from the support of the asylum process to living independently.
Following the success of the ESOL Summer School we started to teach English two days a week in April 2008. On the first day we had four students and five volunteers but by the end of the first term this had increased to 46 students attending three different classes. This project is now called Action Language and in the year 2020/11 there were 697 students attending classes!
We started initially through securing a property from a philanthropic landlord to provide supported accommodation to four destitute asylum seekers.
We quickly realised that the key to many of our residents becoming more integrated and being able to access other services they needed was to be able to communicate in English more effectively. So in 2007 we ran a pilot English Summer School for asylum seekers, refugees and other migrants. This proved to be a great success and sparked the idea for a permanent and more regular ESOL service.
Action Foundation was founded by Julian Prior, who was a member of City Church, Newcastle as a response to the needs of the local community. Following research into the greatest needs in Newcastle and an assessment of how the church might be able to help meet these needs, it was felt we should start with the issue of Asylum.
Following further research (supported by Your Homes Newcastle) it became clear there was no agency in Tyneside set up to provide accommodation for asylum seekers who had been refused the right to remain in the UK yet had not returned home.
It was estimated that there were over 300 people in Tyne and Wear who were destitute, had no recourse to public funds and were entirely dependent on charitable organisations or friends for their most basic survival. As part of this research we got to know Open Door (North East) based in Middlesbrough who were housing destitute asylum seekers and they kindly agreed for us to become a Tyneside branch of their charity.
This enabled us to raise funds and start housing asylum seekers, working in close partnership with West End Refugee Service and East Area Asylum Seeker Support Group (Common Ground) as well as many other individuals and organisations. This project is now called Action Housing.