How We Work

Our work is grounded in the understanding that empowerment, decision-making and agency are essential to challenge the policy-based disempowerment refugees and asylum seekers face. Over the last 16 years we’ve refined our methodologies to empower individuals, and their support networks, to create long-lasting change.

Our Values

Our Values


CARAS will nurture all who are part of our community, helping everyone to develop their skills, talents and interests.


CARAS will strive for social justice following a rights-based approach in all of our work and challenging instances when rights are not upheld in wider society.


CARAS works alongside people, recognising and respecting their skills and strengths and striving together for better outcomes.

'With' Not 'For'

CARAS will put the voices, opinions, experiences and needs of its beneficiaries at the heart of all that we do.

Approach 1


CARAS works from the perspective that people of refugee background are marginalised in the UK and can and do face a complex range of barriers that prevent access to rights, entitlements, opportunities and a good quality of life.

Approach No.2
Social group of people sitting around a table

These barriers must be addressed comprehensively through education, advocacy, and campaigns work for social change. The services offered by CARAS are designed to empower beneficiaries by providing information, tools, resources, and opportunities. We work with beneficiaries respectfully, recognizing that the system in place to support people of refugee background is confusing and overwhelming, with the odds stacked against attaining equal access.

We think empowerment happens when people have decision making power of their own; access to information and resources to make proper decisions; a range of options from which they can make choices; ability to exercise assertiveness in collective decision making; and ability to increase their positive self-image and overcome stigma. CARAS has designed its organisational mission, and services on this basis.

Approach 2

Relational Working

CARAS recognises the transformative power of building supportive relationships and has embedded clear methods of relational working in all of our practice.

Approach No.3
Group of three women sat around a table in a lesson

We believe that creating an environment in which people are valued, respected and encouraged to participate at whatever level they are able is the basis of a strong community. Our groups are relaxed and allow people the time they need to settle and build friendships which allow them to grow in confidence, contribute ideas, share their worries and ask for support when necessary. We also offer one-to-one intensive support for people in times of crisis or transition, during which we will work together to build confidence and skills.

Relational work is a method which has largely fallen out of statutory social work because of the demands it places on time. However, we believe that it is extremely valuable; it is the strength of these supportive relationships which has allowed us to work intensively and successfully with so many people who are wary of other services. We recognise that friends, family, teachers, social groups and other significant, stable relationships all have a positive contribution to make in working with someone through an identified difficulty. We operate within a culture of belief and trust, aiming to support people to achieve their goals.

Approach 3


CARAS knows that power dynamics within the sector serve to disempower individuals through top-down approaches. All too often, individuals with a refugee background are left out of decisions that affect them owing to language, financial or other barriers.

Approach No.4
Man leading a class with students on computers

Power dynamics result in policies and programming that are inappropriate, inaccessible, and unsustainable, which underpin socio- economic exclusion and isolation.

We apply a series of creative and participatory methods to challenge imbalances of power, co-producing all aspects of our work with community members in the pursuit of sustainable and equitable outcomes at all levels. At the organisational level, our strategy was co-produced with 83 community members, whilst at the programmatic level all programs are co-designed with group members, and regular consultation and feedback throughout the year allows us to follow iterative methods of program management.

We are committed to facilitating access to decision-making processes both within CARAS and outside. Where possible we invite community members to speak for themselves at key advocacy, campaigns and policy meetings, bridging gaps where necessary to ensure that refugees and asylum seekers have a voice in decisions affecting them.

Approach 4

Community Voice

We consult with community members on a termly basis, iterating our programs based on current needs, interests and desires to ensure our work is truly community-centric.

Two women in headscarfs laughing

At the governance level we created Honorary Trustee Roles to ensure voice, agency and decision making in our trustee board. By law, people seeking asylum cannot be elected to be charity directors. Honorary roles ensure asylum seekers can apply to join our trustees, serving for a year as both a link to the lived experience of people who use our services, and to develop skills that will support them in their route to stability if they receive a settled status decision.

People around a table voting on different questions using coloured stickers

Our Achievements

People holding up 'Welcome' signs that they've made for new arrivals

Transforming Lives

Our Strategy