Between August 2020 and August 2021, ICOS was funded by the Lloyds Foundation to support migrants in Sunderland and the surrounding area during the pandemic.

The COVID19 grant has enabled us to support migrants, including refugees and asylum seekers (13 of the clients were refugees, who had been particularly affecting by the pandemic) through one to one support, wellbeing sessions and English classes. We supported a total of 45 clients in total. 27 of them (63%) reported improved financial situation and 24 reported better wellbeing, 19 reported improved skills, 2 entered paid employment (13 clients were asylum seekers with no right to work, hence they could not progress into the labour market).

The support we delivered through this project was holistic in its nature, e.g. many clients attended both- English classes/wellbeing sessions and received individual support with issues such as access to benefits or healthcare (e.g. registering with a GP practice). The main barriers we supported clients with were financial hardship, limited English language skills and lack of the EU Settlement Status (for EU migrants).

The board of trustees would like to express our gratitude for Lloyds Foundation’s funding and support. 

Between September 2020 and July 2021, ICOS was funded by the Barrow Cadbury Fund to deliver dedicated, emergency support to BME (Black and Minority Ethnic) people in Sunderland and the surrounding area. This support was focused on dealing right he effects of the pandemic, and was holistic and targeted, the main areas being:

  • access to services and benefits, including housing
  • access to emergency material support- including food parcels, food vouchers, energy top-ups
  • help to communicate with services and institutions

Clients received, on average, between 10 and 20 hours of support.

Through the project, we supported 66 clients, achieving the following results/outcomes:

  • 27 clients reported an improved financial situation and 11 received support access to material support- including food vouchers, referrals to the Red Rose Fund, mobile top-ups and energy top ups, as well as food parcels and access to the local authority hardship support fund
  • 29 clients reported an improvement in their health and wellbeing (measured through the Warwick Edinburgh Mental Wellbeing Scale)
  • 4 found work and 8 accessed training or education


  • 4 of the clients volunteered
  • 5 reported that their skills have improved
  • 10 have been referred for support with the EU Settlement Scheme to partner organisations (children’s Society and Newcastle Law Centre). Most have now received their status.

Clients included Eastern Europeans, refugees and other migrants.

ICOS is grateful to the funders of this project- the Barrow Cadbury Fund and the National Lottery Community Fund for funding that has helped us to make a real difference to clients’ life at this difficult period of time.

Between 2013 and 2016 ICOS worked with Northumbria University, Sunderland University, Nottingham Trent University and the Regional Refugee Forum  to research the financial inclusion of migrants in the North East of England. Read the final report HERE.

Between September and December 2020, ICOS provided support to 23 clients through the Community Foundation COVID19 project, funded by Community Foundation Tyne and Wear & Northumberland.

The project focused on providing emergency support to clients affected by the COVID19 pandemic. Within this relatively short period of time, we have been able to achieve the following:

30% of our beneficiaries had stated that their financial situation has improved as a result of our support and 39% had stated that it stayed the same or there was no change to their financial circumstances.

As a number of clients had turn to us for support due to redundancy, furlough or reduced hours at their place of employment, we have been able to support 52% of clients with employability due to losing their employment due to covid19, out of those 12 clients, 4 had successfully entered new employment, 1 had accessed training and another person had expressed that this project has helped her develop new skills including job-searching skills.

Additionally, we have supported 6 participants with access to benefits such as Universal Credit (UC), child benefit, Personal Independence Payment (PIP) and council tax support applications.

ICOS is thankful to the funder- the Community Foundation Tyne and Wear & Northumberland. For their funding, which enabled us to support minority ethnic people including Eastern Europeans and refugees during this difficult time.

In May 2020, ICOS was granted financial support to help victims of crime from Eastern Europe and other minority ethnic backgrounds during the time of the pandemic.This emergency response project focused on providing extra support to those affected by domestic violence, modern slavery, and hate crime. Additionally, we also provided support to victims of antisocial behaviour.Our target for this project was to support 35 individuals.Overall, we supported 38 individuals, of which:

  • 15 received support with antisocial behaviour,
  • 12 had been victims of hate crime,
  • 11 domestic abuse and
  • 9 of modern slavery.

The project achieved the following:

  • 32% of our beneficiaries reported an improved financial situation at the end of the project
  • 26% of our clients had received help with benefits, this included applications for Universal Credit, council tax support, benefit check and child benefit.
  • 5 beneficiaries received emergency support including food vouchers, utility top ups or / and mobile phone top ups,
  • We have referred 4 clients into Hardship Fund from Red Cross due to having no income (e.g. not eligible for benefits due to current immigration status or moving into temporary accommodation, not having benefits or employment).
  • We have also referred our clients onto other appropriate services including Wearside Women in Need, Foodbanks, solicitors, local housing associations (such as Gentoo or Bernicia), FLOWS and Children’s society for EU Settlement scheme applications.
  • 61% had reported an improved wellbeing which is a success. (we had used The Warwick Edinburgh Mental Wellbeing Scale to measure this.
  • 19 clients  reported that they now feel more confident to report crimes to the police.

Often, victims struggled with communicating with services such as the police, housing providers and legal support services. ICOS helped them to connect with the relevant services, actively advocated on their behalf, as well as supported them in a holistic way, e.g. through helping them to access counselling or benefits.The funding has also helped ICOS to provide remote support.ICOS would like to thank Northumbria PCC for funding our project and enabling us to make a real difference to people’s lives.

Between March and May 2021, ICOS, working in partnership with Sunderland Bangladesh International Centre supported 90 minority ethnic people for whom English was their second language to fill in the 2021 Census. Census Champion Certificate

In March 2021, ICOS organised an event encouraging minority ethnic women to progress into STEM jobs and training, with 13 women attending. Please see the report here: STEM Report March 2021

  • The project started in June 2019 and run till April 2021 (due to an extension)
  • It included regular environmental activities (such as litter picks, maintaining greenery, painting, basic repairs) and educational workshops held across the East of Sunderland.
  • ICOS was 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
  • Throughout the project, ICOS engaged with 175 volunteers, removed over 5000 kilograms or rubbish and engaged with 126 children. This was achieved through delivering 40 activity days, including 5 educational workshops.
  • We have also installed bathhouses, bird houses and created a grass meadow.
  • ICOS has helped the council to save £33960 in man hours (valued at £12 per hour per volunteer multiplied by the number of hours)
  • The project got people together, engaging volunteers from a variety of countries and the majority community in improving the local area and helping the environment. Two of the volunteers progressed into paid employment.

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. We had engaged with 25 clients.

From our registration forms for the project we have found out that out of 79 beneficiaries 34% were experiencing problems with health and wellbeing; 30% needed help with meeting new people, 29% were experiencing problems with communication, 28% lacked access to information and 18% had reported financial problems. Out of the 36 women who have received one-to-one support we have supported 20% with access to welfare benefits including Universal Credit, Personal Independence Payment, Maternity Allowance and New style ESA. 18% have received help with translation and interpreting (over the phone and in-person). 10% had received help with employment including support with writing a CV, job searching and writing applications and 8% got help with access to healthcare (including contacting GP services, hospital, setting up appointments and accessing free prescriptions). 6% got help with housing and another 6% received support with financial advice including a referral to CAB and setting up payment plans. Other help included contacting services such as Sunderland city council, social services, setting up a bank account, online banking, support with discrimination at work and access to training or education.

We have created an evaluation at the end of the project, we have asked questions relating to confidence, new skills gained during the activities, about meeting new people and if they would be interested in continuing attending women’s group activities and is yes, which ones?

From 15 returned evaluations, 80% of women have reported having their confidence improved. 80% have also reported having improved skills (empathy, meditation, CV writing, English language, communication, positive attitude, knowledge, wellbeing and volunteering) due to attending women’s group activities. 93% of those who completed an evaluation reported meeting new people during the project and 100% would like to continue attending women’s group activities. 93% of women expressed that they would like to take part in trips and cultural events. 80% expressed interest in wellbeing sessions e.g. mindfulness, 67% would like to take part in arts and crafts, 60% in training opportunities and 53% in sports activities. We have also created a Facebook group called ‘ICOS Women’ where women can share information and find out information about any upcoming women’s group events. The group now has 124 female members.

This project helped to develop the skills needed for finding jobs in the UK through the English Language in the workplace course, IAG (Information, Advice and Guidance) provision on where and how to look for work and access to external training and volunteering.

We worked with 100 individuals and about 25% progressed into paid work or self-employment.

We have made a real difference to the lives of our clients; within LA7 round 4 (2018-2019), there was a 46% increase in English and Maths skills and a 36% in identifying strengths and weaknesses, as well as an 85% increase in knowledge of where to find job opportunities.

We worked with a challenging client group, providing support to refugees, victims of modern slavery and survivors of domestic violence.

Wise Steps supported people in Tyne and Wear to transform their lives, with funding from the Big Lottery Fund and the European Social Fund. The project provided one to one specialist support to those on the pathway to work. Round 1 has now ended and we have recruited a total of 64 individuals.

Our work focused on those from BME (Black and Minority Ethnic) background, including victims of modern slavery, refugees and economic migrants.

The project ended in April 2019 Out of 64 clients, 24 found paid work and 9 started their own business, this means that about 40% of all clients found paid work. This cohort included refugees and victims of modern slavery. Many have also started volunteering, gained qualifications or started training and courses. Our clients’ financial situation improved by 52% and job-related skills by 30% between the day they started and the day they exited the programme. Basic skills, including English, improved by 29% on average.

In July 2019, we started phase 2 of the project (as we had been re-selected as a partner, following a good level of performance within phase 1). While not many clients have so far left the project, out of the 14 who have left by 07/09/2020, 5 achieved a job outcome.

We engaged with 35 individuals through 3 community events, focusing on community safety, discrimination and hate crime, exploitation and online safety. We mostly engaged on the Eastern European community in Sunderland and the surrounding area, providing space for two-way conversations between families and individuals, the police and the local authority, highlighting problems and solutions

The project improved the trust and mutual understanding between agencies responsible for the safety and policing and the Eastern European community.

We are focused on the Eastern European community in Sunderland and the surrounding area (but within the Northumbria Police force area), providing space for two-way conversations between families and individuals, the police and the local authority, highlighting problems and solutions

We also provided some individual support to victims of hate crime and referrals to appropriate organisations/support. From our evaluations (which have been answered by 26 of our beneficiaries) we have gathered that:

  • 96% of beneficiaries have reported knowing more about community safety, hate crime and internet safety.
  • 96% of beneficiaries have reported that they are more aware of how police work in the UK and support victims of crime.
  • 96% of beneficiaries feel more confident to report crimes
  • 92% would attend future events
  • From our evaluations, we have found out that beneficiaries have learned new things about policing in the UK such as Internet scams and how to avoid them, how to contact police (101 and 999), how police deal with a hate crime, how to report it and what process it involves. ate services.

Together with Sunderland Bangladesh International Centre and Shiney Row Advice and Resource Project (SHARP), we worked to reduce social isolation, improve social cohesion/intercultural understanding and provide support with Universal Credit and other benefits. Sessions included volunteering, Islamic awareness and what is available in your local area.

This project was delivered through regular drop-ins and engaged over 80 individuals in the target area of Millfield, Sunderland. Over 20 progressed into training, 31 were prepared for Universal Credit and over 51 were involved in social activities

In partnership with Groundwork North East & Cumbria and Bluewatch Youth Centre, we have delivered regular clean-ups end educational workshops in Millfield and St Michael’s (Backhouse Park area), Sunderland. ICOS engaged in excess of 200 volunteers, organised over 30 clean-ups, 8 educational workshops and gathered approximately 7.5 tons of refuse.

Approximately 2,700 hours of volunteering were delivered. This project was supported through Sunderland City Council’s East Area Committee.

We have been commissioned by Groundwork North East & Cumbria to deliver educational activities and environmental engagement in Millfield and St Michael’s wards, Sunderland. More details to follow.

Working in partnership with Young Asian Voices and Sunderland Bangladesh Community Centre, as well as the Sunderland Black and Minority Ethnic Network Limited which coordinated the project, we provided advice, support, guidance and advocacy to minority ethnic people in the East Area of Sunderland, the North Area of Sunderland and Washington. The project focused on improving the health and wellbeing of BME people in the above-mentioned areas through provision of advice and activities. Until April 2019 (when the project ended), ICOS provided individual advice to 83 clients and the recruited 11 volunteers within the project.

The project supported clients to access a wide range of services, such as schools, housing and benefits, as it aimed at providing holistic and coordinated support to individuals in need, including access to training and applying for jobs. While this was not primarily an employment project, 6 clients secured paid employment through this project and 5 progressed into training or education.

We provided advice and advocacy, with emphasis on preventing problems/issues from escalating in areas such as contacting public services, finding out about local opportunities, rights at work and community safety. We also helped to fight discrimination and racism.

The project focused on Eastern Europeans living in Sunderland and the surrounding areas but no one is excluded if they live in the North East

Since May, 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.

The project offered support to victims of hate crime and domestic violence, focusing on those from Eastern Europe, end enabling victims to:

  1. Victims feel more safe, secure and less socially isolated
  2. Victims are more likely to report a hate crime or domestic abuse
  3. Victims have better access to welfare benefits and services (one point of contact)
  4. Victims benefit from and improved financial situation

– we supported 24 victims out of the project target of 20.

This included

-13 Victims of hate crime

-6 Victims of domestic violence (one of them had also been a victim of hate crime)

-5 Other victims with significant needs (victims of modern slavery)

Additionally, we are also worked on checking the extent of hate crime and domestic violence and the effects of it on the Eastern European community.

CH-ESOL- Children’s ESOL (for Health)
25 children have successfully taken part in regular creative language sessions through this project. We engaged with children from a variety of backgrounds.

Through this project ethnic and minority, families had an opportunity to improve their much needed and important knowledge about common health issues of their children. The project also helped parents to improve their language and vocabulary skills related to health and wellbeing. Please see more information attached: chesol leaflet 12 page (003)

This project concentrated on targeting residents in the above-mentioned wards, where there was a high incidence of fuel poverty and raising awareness of energy saving.

We run 20 instead information and engagement sessions, including one large community event (as we “converted” for workshops into one larger event in order to ensure economies of scale, this change also enabled us to purchase items such as LED bulbs in order to provide beneficiaries with energy-saving kits, so that we were able to inspire them to make long-lasting changes). This event proved extremely successful and attracted over 40 beneficiaries, including families.

Altogether, the 20 sessions and engaged 83 beneficiaries (total number of individuals, some benefitted from more than one part of the project).

3 Staff members and 2 sessional workers took part in delivering the project. The project engaged 6 volunteers, including 5 community champion.

Additionally, out of 83 beneficiaries, 26 were registered for PRS (Priority Services Register), allowing for easier communication between

Although most of the beneficiaries were clients supported through workshops, we have also provided some one-to-one support to clients.

The project was delivered in partnership with Enviro UK environmental consultancy and St Mark’s Community Association.

This project was instrumental in breaking down barriers between different communities through intercultural engagement and sessions on culture, language and religion of different countries and areas. The session included Ethiopia, Islam, Poland, Slovakia, Taiwan and Italy. There were two events, held in October 2017 (European Day of Languages) and March 2018, altogether bringing over 220 people from different/diverse cultures. The project also encouraged volunteering and social action, engaging a total of 30 volunteers.

The Meet Your Neighbour Festival was a cultural It was a project that enabled local communities to celebrate what contributions migrants from different countries of Eastern Europe have made to the local area while presenting the cultures of the countries they were born in.

While the festival took place over the week of the 22nd to 27th May 2017, we run preparatory workshops and regular Steering Group Meetings between October 2016 and May 2017.

Project benefits/ Outcomes

This project’s aim was to bring people from diverse cultures/backgrounds to celebrate their differences, to improve social cohesion and reduce tension, including social isolation.

At the planning stage, ICOS estimated that 12 volunteers and 500 recipients would benefit.

We have exceeded the above targets with over 1500 individuals visiting the museum exhibition alone and 26 volunteers taking part in the project.

 The project timeline

  • October -November 2016 – forming of the steering group; engagement with local groups, voluntary sector, public agencies, and partner organisations
  • December 2016 – March 2017 –  recruiting volunteers; engagement with community artists and project beneficiaries; development of sessions, including creative writing, painting, photography
  • March-May 2017 – Final developments; sessions completion; festival publicity ready and distributed
  • May 2017 – Festival taking place
  • June 2017 – Post Festival feedback, learning and evaluation activities]

The fine art exhibition took place at the Independent (27-28 Holmeside, Sunderland), with official opening night on the 22nd May 2017, unveiled by Sunderland City of Culture Bid director Rebecca Ball. An approximate number of 60 guests attended on the night. The exhibition was available to public view until Friday, 26th May 2017, with a steady number of about 20 visitors per each day.

The Mayor of Sunderland opened the Family Festival Day which took place in Sunderland Museum & Winter Gardens on the 27th May 2017. A number of visitors attended this event on the day and confirmed by a cultural officer of the Sunderland Museum & Winter Gardens was 1,169.

Following the Family Day, the live music event was held at the Independent at the evening of the 27th May 2017. Approximately 80 visitors and guests attended this event.

Engagement numbers in communities in preparation toward the festival were as follows:

  • Jubilate Community Choir
  • St. Anthony’s  Girls’ Catholic Academy (senior Choir)
  • Hudson Road Primary School (Nursery and Year 5)
  • Pottery workshops at National Glass Centre (15 participants)
  • Other community engagements, including local artists and musicians; Flower Club; Polish Food Shop; University of Sunderland; Student Union; Polish Saturday School; Slovak Embassy London; general public (exact numbers unknown)

Festival Sponsors: Big Lottery Fund; Sunderland City Council; The Embassy of Slovak Republic; Sunderland City of Culture Bid 2021; Bishopwearmouth Co-Operative; Independent; Polish Saturday School; University of Sunderland; Blue Wings Records; local artists: Zagdan Art, A.G. Art, Klaudia Malolepsza, Aneta Halubiec

Meet Your Neighbour Festival resources you can watch/see:

Based on 4 themes: generating, reducing, managing and purchasing energy, we delivered 2 workshops per theme, which ended at the end of November 2016. Reaching over 220 people, the workshops included various types of creative activities, environmental events, and formal and informal discussions.

This project included 5 language taster sessions, a celebration of heritage and connection to other cultures and countries, food tasting; music, arts and crafts, presentations, and stalls about different cultures. This was found to be a success through the feedback received from questionnaires completed by those who attended.

Working with those both employed and those unemployed, this project was successful as all those who participated progressed in their work situations, whether that meant finding employment or changing to a better job. We worked with a variety of clients, some of which included victims of modern slavery, providing the best advice we had at hand, and going the extra mile to support those in need.

Exceeding our target of engaging with 25 members of the BME community, we supported over 35 individuals from the East of Sunderland area on mental wellbeing. This was a successful project due to the positive feedback shown in our preliminary evaluation results. Due to this, there is now a Polish football club that takes place every Saturday for those who suffer from mental health.

Supporting over 70 people, all participants finished the course. This was successful as most of those part of the course came from BME backgrounds, where English was their second (or more) language, and everyone was recruited.

ICOS supported exceeded 57 clients, exceeding the target of 50, while the vast majority of clients either partly or fully achieved the target aim. 31.5% of them (18) found a job, while we also enabled 23 (40.4%) beneficiaries to progress into either level 2 learning or further education. 5 clients were over 50 and 9 were under 25. A number were refugees. The project provided one to one advice and employability support, including job searching and filling –in job applications, as well as access to training.

The Ready, Steady, Go project was funded through the grant “Sported”.. We exceeded our target of working with 45 people and enabled diverse communities, such as Polish and Bangladeshi to come and work together.

Targeting those both employed and unemployed, ICOS supported the BME community in the eligible postcodes to develop their skills through gaining accredited and informal qualifications. Our original target of 40 clients was exceeded by an extra 18 people. 16 clients progressed into volunteering, 15 clients acquired a level 1 qualification, 5 clients acquired a level 2 qualification.

This project served the purpose of engaging minority and ethnic people in sports activities and through it, improving their well-being. The sessions included Archery, Climbing, Golf and Tennis and were very well attended. More than 30 participants attended overall, which each event attended by an average of 20 people. 5 volunteers gained extra skills through this project. This project was supported by Sunderland City Council through its Sunderland 2012 grant scheme. 22 clients entered an informal English Class, and 12 clients progressed with their employment.

In partnership with SIDE CIC,we engaged with 15 minority ethnic people through the Memories Cafe project. This project aimed to improve well-being through learning new skills, overcoming cultural barriers, improving self-confidence and developing an interest in creative activities (e.g. creative writing and collage).

The aim of this project was to provide advice and support to those who smoked and those who wanted to quit. The sessions were available in English, Polish and Slovak so that we could reach a wider clientele. From start to finish, we successfully gave advice and support to 120 people, which included people from challenging backgrounds and the BME community. We were also the only organisation in Sunderland to provide smoking cessation advice and support for those who cannot leave their house. Moreover, we have exceeded the local average quit rate (48% of our users quit as opposed about 43% averages for Tyne and Wear). We currently provide this service for Sunderland’s and Gateshead’s Public Health associations.

Since June 2010, we have been delivering Information, Advice, Guidance and Advocacy
This is an ongoing project which ICOS has tried hard to succeed in in all areas. Often, we are able to provide the best results and outcomes for our clients, most of which are part of the BME network or are from challenging backgrounds. This project includes:

  • Helping recent arrivals in the UK with a range of issues in written, spoken, and online matters (school admission forms, housing forms) and correspondence
  • Supporting clients access welfare benefits, such as Jobseeker’s Allowance, Working Tax Credit, and Social Security Tribunal cases
  • Appointments in banks, and the opening of new bank accounts
  • Basic online and computer literacy support, as well as creating emails and online forms
  • Liaising with respective MP’s with regards to issues that cannot be communicated due to language barriers
  • Communicating with HMRC in regards to client’s issues
  • Finding and helping to apply for grants and government/local council schemes
  • Providing One Planet Living advice, such as in workshops and one-to-one meetings with the general public and the BME community
  • Helping clients change their energy suppliers and providing energy advice
  • Helping provide advice and guidance to those in the BME network who have suffered from racial abuse of any sort
  • Guiding the minority and ethnic community with their lives in the UK, be it with job applications or finding classes and/or accreditations for them to succeed with living in the North East

We have worked with over 2000 individuals and handled more than 5000 cases, many fairly simple matters, but some regarding serious, complex, and formal guidance. ICOS has many success stories, such as in a case where we helped a client win over £4500 in overdue Tax Credit. The client spoke limited English and was on a very low income.

Through our work, we have established links with partner agencies, such as advice providers, Jobcentre Plus, HMRC, and employment agencies. We are an active member of the Economic Inclusion Subgroup of the Regional Migration Forum, hosted by the Association of North Eastern Councils (ANEC). The inclusion part of our work has been the core of what we stand and work for. We have never had direct funding to support this service; however, we have had funding for ICOS’s core costs on the basis that we provided such services. The funders included Sir James Knott Trust and Sherburn Hospital, as well as Trusthouse and Woodward Charitable Trust.

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