Dear Friends and Colleagues,

I wanted to write to you during these difficult times for our clients to give you some insight into our efforts to support and assist asylum seekers during the roll-out of the new payment cards.

Ahead of the roll-out, we increased our staffing at the First Response Call Centre by 20%, to meet and exceed the early predicted demand. We brought the staff on early, ahead of the roll-out, so they would be security checked and fully trained.

Our role is to take reports of issues, such as cards not received, activation issues or missing funds and pass these reports onto the relevant organisations for resolution. We did not issue the cards or replacements, reset locked-out PINs or issue emergency cash payments (ECPs). Likewise, we have no control over the response time of other organisations who do undertake those activities. But I assure you, we do pass those reports on.

While we are taking these reports from callers, we do our best to provide comfort and support. Our staff are compassionate and concerned about the welfare of every person that they speak to and are doing their best to help them get the support they need.

As the roll-out began and issues became apparent, we moved staff from other teams to assist on the phones and to process email requests. Many staff have been working extra hours and on weekends to help meet the high demand.

We do take very seriously our role in preventing fraudsters from calling in and claiming to be asylum seekers to get existing cards cancelled and replacements sent to false new addresses. This vigilance requires a series of security questions to check the caller’s identity. While I appreciate that this can be frustrating, I think how difficult it would be for an asylum seeker to have their card cancelled and then for them to try and navigate the process to prove that it wasn’t them making the request and get a new card. I ask for your patience with this red tape.

I’d also like to remind colleagues not to send individual emails to multiple Migrant Help email addresses, as this requires one of our colleagues receiving the email to sort through the other email inboxes to delete the duplicate and triplicate emails, taking precious time away from the work of responding to queries.

I wanted to share with you an excerpt of an internal blog, written by a colleague working on the front line of Migrant Help. The author speaks far more articulately than I can, of our staff’s dedication and compassion and the importance of being kind.

“It’s clear that we have all worked so hard to achieve a positive outcome for our clients. It’s clear we have all pushed ourselves and our limits, worked extra hours and tried our damned hardest.

After an exhausting Wednesday, I was scrolling through Facebook and came across our own post. There were comments. And I made the wrong decision of reading them; in a nutshell they were not very nice... It affected my entire night and the rest of my week. It felt as though those comments were directed at me. All of the extra hours, early mornings and late nights I worked to try to clear the back log, and it still wasn’t enough.”

I understand and share your frustration and concern for our clients. But I would like to ask you to please be kind about and to my staff. We’re all on the same side. Our staff are trying their damned hardest and I am so very proud of each of them. We will continue to work, taking calls and processing emails, passing the messages onto the organisations who will issue the cards, reset PINs and deliver ECPs. That is our role and the best way we can help.

Along with our colleagues in the charity sector, we share a desire to ensure that people within the asylum system have safe, suitable accommodation, appropriate to their needs and vulnerabilities, that they are able to access financial support, support for mental and physical health matters, legal advice and guidance to make their asylum and support claims. As always, we welcome the support from colleagues across the sector and in the local communities, which are so beneficial to the wellbeing of those in the asylum system. It is only by working together, that we can compassionately support our clients through these most difficult times.


Caroline O’Connor
Chief Executive, Migrant Help