The Edmund Rice Network in Salford no longer works through Revive but as SERV – Salford Edmund Rice Volunteers – based, with the support of Bishop John Arnold and Salford Caritas, in the St. Sebastian’s parish and community centre in Lower Broughton.
The core team is Brothers Ger O’Connell, Martin O’Flaherty, Tony Twomey, and Jim Catterson, together with Anne and Wilf Hammond and dedicated interpreters: Alaeddin Musa, Amna Abdalla, and Brahim Zerd.
Our Monday drop-in provides support and advocacy across the spectrum, including asylum, homelessness, benefit refusal, and re-documentation. The main problem for those granted refugee status is the one we presented in last year’s ERI UPR submission in Geneva and to the All Party Parliamentary Group on Refugees: the UK Government’s failure to provide an integration programme to steer vulnerable and disoriented refugees, often with virtually no English, through the complexities of Job Search, JSA, and Universal Credit and help them secure a roof over their head. Except for the tiny numbers selected for the Syrian Vulnerable Persons Resettlement Scheme, a successful asylum claim is a pathway to eviction from temporary Home Office accommodation, weeks without money, classification as ‘non-priority homeless’, and months, even years, of homelessness. You won’t really grasp how hard and dispiriting it is for the refugees unless you work in it! Fortunately, we have an excellent working partnership with David Ormsby and the CAB Development Unit in Salford, who provide a top-class surgery on benefit problems during our drop-in and are working to achieve a more integrated approach across local services and charities.
The Monday programme is only a small part of what the Brothers offer. More fundamental is human warmth and welcoming, shared respect and solidarity, and continuous accompaniment. Ger and the Brothers are an active and compassionate presence seven days a week, offering ESOL classes, providing individual counselling and advocacy as necessary, hosting refugee groups for both religious and social activities, and acting as a refuge for spiritual space and dialogue. Currently the biggest group of service-users are refugees fleeing from violence and genocide in South Sudan and Darfur.
Recent cases include a family subjected to abuse and knife-threats from racist neighbours, an asthmatic refugee refused social housing even after repeated lengthy hospitalisation following near-fatal collapses in the street, and a mentally-disturbed, almost-blind, refugee refused ESA and PIP.
As we see it, SERV is a living expression of Pope Francis’ ‘culture of encounter’, misericordiando on the periphery, being ‘a Church without frontiers, Mother to all’, sharing in God’s special concern for the stranger and ‘people on the move’.
If you can help us in any way, either by raising funds or volunteering for a few hours a week, please contact Br. Ger on 07455 224227 or at the parish house:
St. Sebastian Church, Gerald Road, Pendleton, Salford, M6 6DL.
O God, we thank you for the life of Edmund Rice.
He opened his heart to Christ present in those oppressed by poverty and injustice.
May we follow his example of faith and generosity.
Grant us the courage and compassion of Edmund as we seek to live lives of love and service.
We ask this through Christ our Lord.