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Social Enterprises Supporting Refugees in the UK

Moving to a different country and adapting to new environments can be challenging, even in the best of circumstances. For those seeking refuge or asylum outside of their home nations, this experience can be one that is incredibly distressing and traumatic.

Many people not only have to go through the trauma of being uprooted from their homes but quite often have been forced to flee countries ravaged by war and destruction. To then have to start anew in an unfamiliar place is something that comes with significant challenges of its own. For numerous refugees, these can include learning a foreign language, forming new relationships and finding stable employment. Fortunately, there are various social enterprises in the UK that provide support to refugees and asylum seekers, helping them to overcome these challenges and better integrate into their new homes. On World Refugee Day we want to shine a light on a number of these businesses and the work they do:

This London-based social enterprise has a very British way of helping refugees adapt to life in the UK — through tea. NEMI offers a selection of specialist blended teas and brews some of the best chai in town. At the same time, they provide job opportunities for migrants and refugees.

As well as performing commercial roles like sales and marketing or packing and distribution, employees also run tea stalls at food markets, festivals and other events across the city. This helps them to better their English skills, build confidence and gives them a pathway into finding further employment.

What’s more, all of NEMI’s packaging is biodegradable and their tea is Fairtrade certified, meaning fairer wages and working conditions for the people who produce their tea.

Clear Voice is a social enterprise that speaks your language. They operate a professional interpreting service in over 200 different languages by telephone, as well as face-to-face translation and a range of other language services.

100% of the profits from Clear Voice’s operations are used to run their charity arm, Migrant Help, which works to support asylum seekers, refugees and victims of human trafficking and modern slavery. This support is comprehensive and ranges from helping people find accommodation to emotional wellbeing support and helping people to reconnect with their families back home.

Clear Voice is also lending a hand in the current crisis, helping to produce Covid-19 advice in over 40 languages based on government advice and health information in partnership with Doctors of the World and the British Red Cross.

Routes provide support to migrant women in London, recognising the gender-related barriers they face in integrating into a new society. They bring women together to support one another, running a mentorship program as a means of helping them to upskill, find work or, in some cases, start their own businesses.

They also use theatre to help women build confidence, running workshops and putting on shows around London.

Set up by the Coventry Refugee and Migrant Centre, Spring Action Cleaning is helping to address both the need for top-quality cleaning services in Coventry and greater job opportunities for refugees in the area. Alongside support from the Centre, which includes free English lessons and legal advice on a range of issues, working at the social enterprise creates opportunities for migrants for future employment confidence building.

As a cleaning provider, they are also running an essential service and have stepped up to meet demand during the pandemic. They offer additional services such as deep cleans for businesses still operating during this time, to keep spaces safe for workers.

These four social enterprises are trusted suppliers on the Supply Change platform, which we’ve recently created an open-source version of to support buyers find social suppliers. The directory lists these, and other verified suppliers which are continuing to provide essential goods and services during this time. You can view the directory here.


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