Current Projects

The projects we are currently involved in:

COVID-19 support

For the last 6 months, we have been dealing with an unprecedented situation- the COVID-19 crisis. Migrants, including refugees and Eastern Europeans, are often the first to be made redundant and the last to be employed and many do not know how to access benefits and services, while many support and advice agencies are closed. We are currently supporting many clients in person and remotely (over the phone and Zoom) to help them during this difficult time. This includes:

 -Digital inclusion- access to free (new and refurbished) tablets, mobile phone top-ups

-English language support- we have created an English language class for those self-isolating or unable to access other/mainstream provision due to the virus

-Wellbeing activities, including coffee mornings/afternoons

-Emergency support- including access to food parcels and food vouchers, as well as energy top-ups

-Advocacy and advice- support with accessing housing, benefits and other services

-Employability- help with finding work for those who lost employment due to the crisis

Clients include victims of modern slavery, domestic violence and hate crime. As of 08/10/2020, we are currently supporting in excess of 70 clients who need support due to the virus.

We are grateful for the generosity of our funders, including Lloyds Foundation, the National Lottery Community Fund, the Tyne and Wear & Northumberland Community Foundation and the Office of Police and Crime Commissioner for Northumbria and Tesco (Bags of Help) for supporting different elements of this vital work.

Back in Control Project (2019-2021)

The aim of the project is to improve, the economic, social, personal outcomes of victims of modern slavery/workplace exploitation, for people from ethnic minority groups residing in Sunderland and a 5-mile radius. ICOS will support victims who have been abused in getting back in control of their lives and be victims no more.

The Project is to offer free support employment rights, access to housing and welfare benefits, as well as support with accessing immigration advice and counselling.  ICOS works with partners who provide legal advocacy support, English language courses and interpreting services to encourage people to learn new skills, which will not only improve their employment prospects but also increase their confidence, self-belief and mental health well being.

ICOS will support at least 140 individuals through one-to-one advice, advocacy and confidence-building activities. Moreover, it will support organisations such as employers to improve their employment practices. We hope to transform Sunderland into an area where employment is fair for every employee.

We have engaged with 40 clients as of 07/08/2020

Wise Steps Tyne and Wear BBO Phase 2 (July 2019 – December 2021)

The 2nd round of the project started extremely well for ICOS. So far, we have engaged with 49 out of the target of 50 clients and 19 have already left our project (10 with a job outcome). The project provides employability support to individuals far from the labour market, including vulnerable individuals. Our support includes one to one support with job searching, applying for jobs, interview preparations etc. and it also provides holistic support to remove barriers facing those wanting to enter education, training or find a job (e.g. access to welfare benefits).

Specialist support with self-employment or even counselling can be provided by specialist partners.

ICOS’s role within the project is to work with BME people in Sunderland (however, we can accept anyone who lives in the Tyne and Wear area).

The project is jointly funded by the National Lottery Community Fund and the European Social Fund (ESF).

ICOS is the only BME organisation in Sunderland working on Wise Steps and one of only two in the whole of Tyne and Wear.

Eastern European Support Project (phase 2)

Since May 2019, we have started EESP 2 and have already supported almost 100 clients with issues such as access to benefits, job searching (including for those who currently have a job) and rights and responsibilities.  So far, 31% of clients received support with welfare benefits, 15% with translation/interpreting and another 15% with employability (including those already in work).

This project is funded by the National Lottery Community Fund (Awards for All).

Police and Crime Commissioner’s for Northumbria Victims fund (2019-2020)

We have recently been granted funding by the Police and Crime Commissioner for Northumbria to organise workshops engaging the Eastern European community, including victims in areas such as crime prevention, hate crime and community/family safety. So far, we have engaged with 25 clients.

Women’s Engagement and Empowerment

  • We have recently started the first-ever Eastern European Women’s Support Group in the North East of England
  • Regular bi-weekly meetings are held and the content is decided by the women- so far it has included health, social events and a mindfulness session, as well as hate crime training with Northumbria Police
  • Individuals support, e.g. with regards to personal development (such as applying for free courses with local providers) or access to welfare
  • So far, we have engaged with 27 women, 6 of whom have become volunteers

East Rangers (2019 – 2020)

  • The project started in June 2019 and had been extended till December 2020.
  • It includes regular environmental activities (such as litter picks, maintaining greenery) and educational workshops held across the East of Sunderland.
  • ICOS is the lead provider for St Michael’s ward and works with volunteers, partner organisations (such as Friends of the Backhouse and Barley Mow Park), to organise activities in Backhouse Park and several other areas
  • So far, we have met our targets and organised 28 action days, engaged with 105 children and 56 adult volunteers and cleared up about 5 tonnes of rubbish.

Smoking Cessation

  • We have started delivering smoking cessation in 2019 as part of our contract with Sunderland City Council
  • So far, we have engaged with 15 clients
  • The project supports often vulnerable people to quit smoking, while also earning income for the charity

Representation and policy:

We continue to represent new communities in Sunderland and beyond and make sure we are heard and visible.

We are an active member of the Sunderland Black and Minority Ethnic Network (SBMEN,, which helps us to work together and be heard. Michal Chantkowski represents SBMEN at the board of Sunderland’s Community-Led Local Development.( ) as deputy chairperson.

We are also involved in the regional skills board, the North East Migration Partnership, Sunderland’s local area committees and Northumbria Police’s Independent Advisory Group.

People’s Powerhouse- strategic engagement:

-09/11/2019, we organised a successful even to engage Eastern European current and potential entrepreneurs with the Northern Powerhouse agenda and talk about the priorities they believed the government should be pursuing with regards to supporting small businesses in the region. We engaged with about 20 people.

-on 19/11/2019, our staff (Michal, Julia and Alessia) delivered a workshop at the annual People’s Powerhouse convention. This session focused on the issues that migrants in the region face when it comes to progression into work and training, as well as in-work exploitation and abuse.

The Back in Control project we have recently started opens up new opportunities for influencing policy.