Unlocking change

RefuAid's Equal Access Loan Scheme


RefuAid provides people who have fled their homes with tailored support to build independent and dignified lives in the UK.

RefuAid's Equal Access Loan Scheme provides people who have claimed asylum in the UK with an opportunity to return to their previous career with an interest-free loan that covers the cost of requalification. There is no mainstream option for accessing or borrowing the money to cover requalification costs so, without RefuAid's loan, refugees risk being stuck on benefits or in low-paid employment that is unsuitable to their skills and expertise.

Through our Equal Access Loan Scheme, we’ve been able to make over 350 loans, totalling almost £2million in capital and with a repayment rate of over 97%. These loans truly are lifechanging, enabling people who have had to rebuild their lives in the UK to return to the careers they know and love.

Kate Higgins, RefuAid’s Chief Operating Officer

Over half of the people who have taken on a loan through RefuAid are health workers requalifying to work in the NHS. Other professions the loans have been used for include lawyer, accountant and engineer. Of those who have completed requalification, the average starting salary is £33.7k, which represents a 672% increase when compared to their pre-loan income.

In 2020, Esmée provided RefuAid with £200,000 of zero-interest capital as a recycling loan facility, which is onward-loaned to its refugee clients through their Equal Access Loan Scheme. The Scheme uses affordable, flexible, patient capital to achieve transformational impact for refugees as part of their tailored support to building independent and dignified lives.

Connection to Esmée's strategy

Social investment strategy

Investing in a Fairer Future

  • An impact-first direct investment to support new innovative financial models and drive responsible solutions to market failure

Kate Higgins, RefuAid’s Chief Operating Officer, said:

Support from Esmée Fairbairn Foundation has been instrumental in allowing us to scale up our Equal Access Loan Programme, providing accessible interest-free finance to those who have been forced to flee their homes due to war and persecution. A key part of our approach is focusing on character-based lending; this is a relatively rare model within traditional mainstream finance, so it’s been amazing to work with a team who have fully understood and embraced this concept and we’re grateful for their belief in the potential of the programme.

My journey has been a remarkable testament to resilience and determination. After I left my homeland, I embarked on a treacherous journey in search of safety and a chance to rebuild my life. After overcoming numerous obstacles, I arrived in a new country, where I faced the daunting task of navigating through unfamiliar systems and cultural barriers. Throughout my journey, I remained committed to my dream of becoming a healthcare professional and contributing to society. The process of obtaining my GMC registration was a significant milestone in my path towards achieving that dream. It required unwavering perseverance, countless hours of studying, and the support of mentors and fellow refugees who became my newfound family. Today, as a registered GMC professional, I am honoured to contribute my expertise and passion to the healthcare field, serving as a beacon of hope and inspiration for other refugees who are pursuing their own dreams amidst adversity.

Safa, a Doctor from Iraq now working in the UK

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