Renfrewshire Council

Living our values - housing support team

Recognising our values in action at our Ukrainian refugee Welcome Hub

Image of Serena Murray and Tom Irvine for LOV article
Tom Irvine and Serena Murray
"Supporting refugees when they arrive in Scotland is a challenging and rewarding job," says housing support services manager, Serena Murray.

When our housing support team established Renfrewshire's Welcome Hub - the first of its kind in Scotland for those fleeing the crisis in Ukraine - the scale of the task was unlike anything the team had ever faced before.

The hub near Glasgow Airport is open seven days a week where the team ensure people arriving from Ukraine are safe and well and have a place to stay. The staff then work with other council services and our partners to safely resettle those who wish to stay in Renfrewshire longer term, and ensure others are helped to move on to other parts of Scotland.

Chief Executive, Alan Russell, recognised the team for being "an embodiment of our values in action". He said, "The team established the hub in a very short space of time and have provided a warm Scottish welcome to over 1,000 refugees so far. I'm exceptionally proud of them."

Serena said, "The Council have supported Syrian and Afghan refugees in the past, but the scale of this project was bigger than anything we had done before. We had to effectively double our small team and work in close collaboration with colleagues from the wider service area".

Homeless and housing support services manager, Tom Irvine adds, "We needed to create and build a welcoming, efficient, effective support hub from scratch. There were a lot of unknowns, like when and how many people would arrive, which made it difficult to plan but our focus is always about making sure they are safe, warm, fed, and their health needs are met."

Ukraine Hub - Living our values frame
Housing support team*
Serena said, "It's really helped build our resilience and ability to support one another as a team. That's been important because it's still evolving and none of us know what to expect day to day.

"At the start we weren't fully out of covid mode, so it was a lot of pressure to shift gear once more. As the first hub in the country, we had a huge responsibility. We were leading the way and sharing our lessons with other councils to help them prepare the other hubs opening across the country.

"We were once visited by the Ukrainian Consulate General. It was still early days, and the visit was announced last minute on a Saturday. He seemed delighted and said he really liked our set up. It meant a lot to the team to get his endorsement as a person from that nation checking on how the people of his country were being helped here in Renfrewshire".

Tom explained a bit about how the hub works. "First, our team receive a phone call letting us know that Ukrainians have arrived. Then we quickly get to the airport, alongside workers from the Scottish Refugee Council, and our staff introduce themselves to those coming off flights. It's clear that many have been through trauma, so it's important that the team are understanding and reassuring. We take them to the hub and explain what's going to happen next without overloading them with too much information at one time. The priority is understanding their needs and helping them to settle and feel safe."

Serena spoke of the experience for refugees when they first arrive. She said, "You can see many people are still frightened when they get here, so it's critical that our messages are translated quickly, and they understand we are there to help.
"It can be emotional for our team to see people - many of whom are lone women or mums with young children - in such awful circumstances. But the team have done amazingly well and are inundated with thank you cards and photos of the kids starting school. So, we know how much our work is appreciated and it's wonderful to see when we have helped someone reach a positive place".

Tom added, "the team also support local people who are helping to house Ukrainians and it's important to remember that it can be challenging for them too. So, it's all the more rewarding when we see positive outcomes for everyone involved. Even though people have been through a traumatic time, the positives of human nature still shine through. It's encouraging to see a real sense of community grow as people help each other and build new friendships".

Asked how they felt about the service being recognised for living our values, Tom said, "It's great to see the work of the team is recognised and appreciated. Experiences like this show how our values are front and centre of what we do."

Serena agrees, "We're always learning and working with others and just doing our very best to help in any way we can where we are needed. I can see how our values are reflected in that, and I'm delighted that the team have been recognised."

Living our values graphic Nominate a colleague for living our values

Have you noticed a colleague or team who really get what it means to be fair, helpful, collaborative and value learning?  Why not let them know they're doing a great job by nominating them for living our values?

It's a great way to say thank you for making a difference and demonstrating the behaviours we all agreed were important to us when we developed our values together.

To nominate:

Simply complete this short form with some great examples of what they do.

For more information on our values and behaviours, head over to the Living Our Values webpage.

*Housing support team as pictured above
Back row, from left:

Paul Mann, Morven Train, Jennifer Craig, Fraser Chalmers, Iona Bowes, Robert McKay, Morag McGhie
Front row, from left:
Michelle Stewart, Elaine Sales, Lucy Johnston, Julie Mullen, KaraLouise Blue, Donna McDaid, Janey Irwin, Caitlin Hutton

Published on Tuesday 22 November 2022