IT began 17 years ago as a weekly lunch club and is now a thriving independent charity working with over 1200 migrants, refugees and asylum seekers from 80 different countries each year.

Edinburgh-based The Welcoming also became a Scottish Accredited Living Wage employer in May last year although its ten employees were already being paid above the living wage.

“Joining the living wage community was an ideal way to show our commitment to supporting our staff, all of whom bring considerable care, dedication, creativity and hard work to their roles,” said director Elaine Mowat.

“Another key reason was to show our commitment to fair wages for all, and to highlight the situation of our participants, many of whom work long hours for low wages. They come to Welcoming classes and activities in between shifts as kitchen porters, café baristas and care workers.”

“As highlighted in the recent campaign #1DayWithoutUs, migrants make an invaluable contribution to our economy and society. In return, we need to ensure fair wages and dignity and respect for all. Being a living wage employer is a great opportunity to promote these values. It is exciting to see so many organisations across the country signing up to be living wage employers and we hope that this will help more and more ‘New Scots’ to be properly valued and rewarded for the skills and talents they bring to Scotland.”

The charity began in 2000 as a weekly lunch club within Edinburgh’s Adult Learning Project to help asylum seekers get to know people and start to settle in the city. It provides a place of safety and welcome where people can learn English, get help with finding jobs, meet others and make friends and take part in a wide variety of activities that will help them to discover a positive quality of life in Edinburgh.

The aim is to help newcomers to achieve their potential in Scotland and to build opportunities for people of all backgrounds, nationalities, faiths and ages to share experiences and learn together.

“We have a fantastic pool of local volunteers who support our participants in all kinds of ways, from teaching English and running conversation classes to playing table tennis, cycle rides and enjoying music together,” said Mowat.

Victoria Lanata Briones, community engagement coordinator for the charity said: “I remember my first job after moving to Edinburgh: I had to take the night bus home and that cost almost as much as what I was getting for an hour’s work after taxes! I only did five hour shifts so the impact was huge. Because I started work at midnight, I really didn’t have a choice: it was either that or no income at all.

“Working for a living wage employer means I know none of my colleagues will have to go through a similar situation. It makes our work feel appreciated and our professional development nurtured.”

The UK living wage for outside London is currently £8.75 per hour. It is significantly higher than the UK government’s “national living wage” rate of £7.50 which applies to over-25s only.

These figures are calculated annually by the Resolution Foundation and overseen by the Living Wage Commission, based on the best available evidence on living standards in the UK.

The accreditation programme in Scotland launched in April 2014. It is an initiative from The Poverty Alliance, in partnership with the Living Wage Foundation.