The challenges and rewards of teaching in a Southampton hotel

Notes of SWVG General Meeting on 1st February 2021
The hotel in Southampton has been used  by the Home Office as “contingency accomodation” for about 70 people seeking asylum since October 2020.  Members of SWVG’s English teaching team talked about their experiences giving classes and other support there.

Many people in the hotel were new arrivals in the UK. Southampton Action provided them with sets of clothes; SWVG coordinated well with Southampton Action, with CLEAR and with Southampton Churches.

Catherine, Hilary, Karuna, Nariman, Penny and Rowan (from CLEAR) described how the teaching team had to assess and teach a range of abilities which ranged from people illiterate in their mother language to those doing IELTS.  It was a major challenge to help so many people and keep safe during Covid, and it was also very enjoyable to get to know them.  As well as face to face, lessons are also online.  Many of these are continuing even though people have been moved to other towns and cities, it’s good to keep in touch.  The teaching has enabled people to have a basic vocabulary, to be able to ask for things and to have more confidence.

SWVG also provided some sports equipment,  Jayne brought over two ping pong tables, Keiran and Hilary arranged donation of 21 bicycles.

Karuna described how many people had their smart phones confiscated by the Home Office.  She has had a major project talking to people at the HO and getting some of these phones returned.  She also took people to the local library and helped them sign up for books and access to computers.

The meeting agreed these actions:
  • Home Office moving people between cities can be very disruptive – personally and in its effect on continuity of health care, legal support, english lessons.  The uncertainty can create a lot of stress for people. Why are people being moved out to other hotels now?  Why still using former barracks? Ask ReadyHomes and the Home Office for their reasons.
  • Write to MPs that the former barracks at Folkestone and Penally are not suitable as accommodation (and nor would Barton Stacey be).
  • Mobile phones and internet connections are vital to people’s support networks and family contacts.  Concern about the Home Office confiscating them and sometimes sending back the wrong phones.
  • Contacts with other organisations around the country are becoming more important e.g. Asylum Link, City of Sanctuary, Care4Calais.
  • Submit evidence about accommodation in the hotel to the Independent Inspector by 20th February.