Now is the time for more inclusive and responsible business

Businesses often ask me what they can do to help refugees. Here's what I say.


Matt Powell

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Businesses often ask me what they can do to help refugees. While many businesses, like our corporate partners do a tremendous amount to support refugees, sometimes I hear questions such as; “we want to do something, our staff want us to do something, but we don’t know how to help.”

Let’s be upfront about something. There is no national strategy or policy in place to support refugees to get into work or education. And yet, there are nearly 375,000 refugees in the UK, each with their own unique story, background, work experience and skills. They speak a myriad of languages, a lot speak excellent English, many have had lengthy and respected careers, and plenty have degrees from high-profile universities in their countries. So how come 85% of refugees who enrolled with us since June last year are unemployed?

Breaking Barriers has always been at the forefront of supporting refugees into employment and education. But as this years’ Refugee Week theme attests to; We cannot walk alone. We do this by partnering with the business community, who we see as a force for good. To fulfil our objectives of integrating refugees through employment, we’ve had to innovate by forming relationships and partnerships that will mean something to the business we’re working with and the refugees we support. And over the last six years we have helped over 1,300 refugees through a partnership approach with the business community.

Today, our charity is no different. Next week, on Thursday 17 June, in the middle of Refugee Week, we will be launching Fuse, a network for businesses that will come together to improve the employment opportunities for refugees. This network will not only share information, discuss best practice and learn from each other, but importantly it will be the first time that UK-based businesses will formally pledge to unlock the potential of refugees in the UK, thereby supporting refugees and the UK economy, and will hopefully start to change the narrative about refugees.


I know first-hand the support that many businesses provide. One of our clients Awais Ahmad who is now a Tax Assistant at Grant Thornton, told me how grateful he was that through Breaking Barriers he is now in full-time employment, something he could only have dreamed of when he arrived in the UK. But he’s not alone, there are thousands of other refugees who have the skills and experience to do well.

Fuse will take our already proven approach further. By partnering with Breaking Barriers and pledging to join the Fuse network, businesses will join a community of like-minded organisations who all have a public purpose and believe in the power of business to change lives, uniting in a shared goal to improve the lives of refugees through employment. Connecting with other businesses through Fuse will also send a powerful values-led message to customers and employees that companies are visibly committed to enacting change through greater inclusivity and responsibility.

At Breaking Barriers we understand that supporting and hiring refugees can be complex. And that’s why, next week (17 June 2021) we will publish the Fuse Action Plan, a free resource to download that gives businesses all the tools they need to support refugees.

So far, we’re delighted that so many businesses have pledged to make a long-term commitment to helping refugees by joining Fuse, including Big Yellow, Cummins, General Assembly, Grant Thornton, Herbert Smith Freehills, Ipsos MORI, IKEA, Mayer Brown, Reward Gateway, S&P Global, Stephenson Harwood, TD Securities, WeWork and Western Union.

If your business would like to join Fuse, all you have to do is contact us about being one of our partners and we’ll talk about the next steps. Or why not join our launch event, which will be taking place via Zoom on Thursday 17 June at 12pm (BST) when you can find out more about how your business can take a leadership role in supporting refugees.

Register to attend here:

I look forward to seeing you there.

Matt Powell, CEO and Founder, Breaking Barriers