Councillor David Simmonds, who is leading our work on the refugee crisis, yesterday chaired a meeting of the Asylum, Migration and Refugee Task Group to discuss the ongoing Syrian refugee crisis, and how councils can provide advice and support to both their staff and the public.
Every council will, I’m sure, want to make the most of the many generous offers of accommodation and volunteer hours. Local areas will know how best to coordinate their response and most of you will already have a strategy in place, but I wanted to remind you of the various avenues of support and information available to you, as chief executives, should you require it. We have developed one-stop shop of extra advice and resources to answer some of the questions you and your residents may have about taking in Syrian refugees, including advice on how to support residents wanting to offer help. This will be updated regularly, as will the Government’s own webpage, who are leading the UK’s response to the issue.
You will obviously know your local communities better than anyone and so, if you receive offers of accommodation, in the first instance, your private sector housing teams might want to collate the details so that once we have further information from government on who will be arriving in the UK and when, you can assess whether you can make use of their offer to provide housing. For the many other offers you may want to direct people to the local and national charities which are already offering support to refugees and asylum seekers already in the UK.
We expect an announcement by Government shortly on how the scheme for settling Syrian refugees will operate and be funded, and when will refugees begin to arrive in the UK.
We are involved in ongoing discussions with Government, and are calling for a long term plan for how vulnerable children, families and vulnerable adults will be supported as they move to the UK. We will also continue to push for a commitment from Government to provide full funding to support individuals and families and the public services they will depend upon.
I know many of you already have great experience of helping asylum seekers and refugees over the years and will already have a strategy for supporting them, or indeed any new arrival in your community with additional needs. We hope to work with you to share this learning as the scheme is developed.
In the meantime, we will of course keep you updated as we get further information from Government and provide relevant contact details.
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