The Future of CLEAR
By Tom Wood
Now that CLEAR’S 20th anniversary month is over, it’s time to look towards the future. I
spoke to Interim Project Manager Paul W to find out more about the organisation’s plans.
‘Any charity wants to not exist’, he begins. ‘The sustainability [of CLEAR] is about a political
response to migration, because people come here with no English and very little support’.
The ultimate goal is that the world will change to become so refugee friendly that the
services of a group like CLEAR are no longer needed. Paul uses the example of English
classes: ‘if [the classes] had to be provided, we wouldn’t need to do the job because it
would be funded through the colleges’, meaning that if the government decided to provide
English lessons, a charity offering them would be redundant.
This kind of solution looks a long way off, however, so CLEAR needs to continue its work.
Currently, the lottery funding that we have depended on for the last several years might not
be renewed, and other options like trust funds are ‘very competitive because you’ve got
every town and city applying for them‘. Due to this uncertainty, a new scheme is being
piloted to raise money called the Friends of CLEAR. Paul explains that this is a fundraising
project where ‘people can become individual sponsors and donors to our work’. He’s
anxious to stress that ‘we never want clients to feel as though they have to give to us’, but
rather that we want to grow the number of people that ‘believe in the project, that are
invested in it and want to hear the news about [CLEAR]’ without them having to be clients
Another way in which CLEAR could be changing is in terms of precisely how its services are
provided. ‘As a team we are talking about the fact that we’ve had to move everything
online’, says Paul. He explains that whilst ‘teachers hate being online because they like
being one to one with the students’, on the other hand ‘if you’re a mum that’s got kids at
home or [who has] a disability, getting to the office is a massive effort whereas if you can
just flick on a computer and have your lessons there […] you don’t have to worry about bus
travel or [arranging care for your children]’. As such, ‘our proposal is to have a hybrid, to be
offering online lessons and in person [lessons], then seeing what the uptake is and having a
bit of trial period of that over this autumn rather than just flicking back to how we were’.
Paul now has over 20 years of experience working with refugees and asylum seekers, so I
also take the chance to ask about how he sees the future for these groups of people more
generally. He states that while ‘it’s a very polarising subject […] I’m always hopeful’. ‘We’ve
learnt so much and have got a team that have got a lot of experience.’ ‘When we started 20
years ago we didn’t know very much […] and now we’ve got a whole team who’ve spent
years and years with people from all over the world understanding their issues and building
up trust, so you’ve got to be more hopeful that we’ve actually built something over the
years’. Whilst ‘there’s always the threat of far-right groups that want Britain to be white
British again, [….] you do see a lot of people committed to the opposite.’
He also underlines the strength of the community in Southampton more generally, which
has recently been developed through the addition of three more Schools of Sanctuary to the
already existing 18 in the city. ‘That’s the hope really, from primary school up you educate
people around refugee issues and why people leave their country […] and you teach people
to be considerate towards others’. ’21 schools is probably getting on for 20000 pupils
engaged in that just in Southampton’, which is to say a large number of pupils are being
taught to be sympathetic towards refugees from a young age, hopefully resulting in more
knowledge and kindness regarding these issues from the adults of the future.
The future for CLEAR is one in which the services like English classes and employment advice
might be more accessible than ever through their availability both online and in person, and
one in which we will be looking to build new community support and relationships through
the Friends of Clear scheme. It’s also one in which people hopefully become more aware of
and conscientious about refugee issues, even whilst there is still negativity from far right
groups as well as from the government itself. Despite the negative press around refugees,
there are still reasons to be hopeful. As Paul says about the future, ‘we believe there’ll
always be a hope when we’re providing an education to people, teaching them basic English
and helping them to find the jobs that they need, helping them to become the citizens of
the UK that they long to be’.
You can find out more about and support CLEAR through the friends of CLEAR scheme here.