LGA | Refugees – a one-stop resource for councillors

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Refugees

A one-stop resource for councillors and council officers to answer any questions you might have about taking in refugees. This includes regional contacts, where to direct residents offering housing and our media statements, amongst other resources.

We will continue to update these resources as more information comes through – keep checking this page to stay up to date.

For residents wanting to offer support please contact call the Red Cross’s dedicated phone line on 0800 107 8727 for more information on how you can help.

1. Where do we go for more information?
Local authorities should contact their regional Strategic Migration Partnership officer (who coordinates local refugee networks) for more advice – contacts below. Do look for updates from the government here: Government announcements page on gov.uk.

We are awaiting more information from Government on how any scheme for resettling Syrian refugees will be run and funded. We will update this page as we receive more information.

Region Officer lead Email
East of England Gosia Strona Malgorzata.Strona@eelga.gov.uk
East Midlands Sarah Short Sarah.Short@emcouncils.gov.uk
London mayor@london.gov.uk
North East Janine Hartley Janine_Hartley@middlesbrough.gov.uk
North West Katy Wood K.wood@manchester.gov.uk
South East Roy Millard RoyMillard@secouncils.gov.uk
South West Sarah Short Sarah.Short@swcouncils.gov.uk
Wales Anne Hubbard anne.hubbard@wlga.gov.uk
West Midlands Dally Panesar Dalvinder.Panesar@birmingham.gov.uk
Yorkshire & Humberside admin@migrationyorkshire.org.uk

2. What has the government announced?

In his statement to the House of Commons on Monday 7 September, the Prime Minister announced that Britain should resettle up to 20,000 Syrian refugees over the rest of the Parliament. These refugees will be taken from the camps in the countries neighbouring Syria using the established process. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) will refer people to the scheme.

The Home Office and Department for Communities and Local Government will be working with local authorities and the devolved administrations in Scotland and Wales to agree details of the arrangements to house and support the refugees. More information is given in the Home Office letter on Syrian Resettlement Programme.

Do look for updates from the government here:
Government announcements page on gov.uk.

3 What does this mean in practice?

The criteria for the existing Syrian Vulnerable Persons Relocation (VPR) scheme will be expanded. The humanitarian criteria will be broadened to include other vulnerable categories previously excluded. It still will continue to focus on the most vulnerable.

The expanded scheme will include those already placed and to be placed under the existing scheme. 216 Syrians have been relocated to the UK under the VPR scheme since the Prime Minister’s announcement.

The aim of the scheme is to place vulnerable people as quickly as possible in the areas that can best meet their needs. Government are working with the LGA, local authorities, UNHCR (the UN’s refugee agency) and others to simplify and quicken the means in which families and individuals are processed through the current scheme and to minimise any impacts on existing communities.

The Home Office has indicated that it will seek to ensure an equitable distribution of refugees across the country so that no individual local authority bears a disproportionate share of the burden.

In order to proceed quickly, whilst the expanded scheme is being developed, councils are being invited to take refugees based on the existing scheme. More information on the current scheme is below.

Refugees will be granted a five year humanitarian protection visa. This will entitle them to access to public funds, access to the labour market and the possibility of a family reunion.

This scheme will continue to run alongside other resettlement schemes and other asylum procedures. Participation in the scheme will remain voluntary.

Refugees arriving in the first months of this scheme are unlikely to include unaccompanied children. Unaccompanied children will be resettled through a scheme designed specifically for their needs. LGA is proposing that unaccompanied children – whichever country they have come from – should be supported through a single national scheme which is being developed separately.

4. What should local authorities who are interested in resettling refugees do?

We have agreed that the LGA will coordinate offers from councils via the Regional Strategic Migration Partnership (RSMP). As such, offers of council support should be communicated to your RSMP contact – listed above – who will pass on relevant information to the LGA for a central record.

It would be useful to get an indicative sense of numbers of the adults, children or families you may be able to take given your local circumstances. We will treat this information as confidential. Giving a sense of numbers does not commit you to this figure, particularly in advance of information on funding and the cohort. Many of you in two-tier areas are already working together to provide these numbers.

There is a lot of detail still to be worked through. RSMPs can log any queries you may have about how the scheme may be run so we can pass these back to Government and we are updating these Q&As as soon as we receive answers. Please continue to contact your Strategic Migration Partnership (contacts above). We have been sharing your questions with Government and proposing a way forward.

This scheme will continue to run alongside other resettlement schemes and other asylum procedures.

Unaccompanied children will be resettled through a scheme designed specifically for their needs. LGA is proposing that unaccompanied children – whichever country they have come from – should be supported through a single national scheme which is is being developed separately.

We know many of you will have helped 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 want to work with you to collate and share these as good practice examples. Do contact your RSMPs or info@local.gov.uk with any examples you may have. If you are an authority who would like to be in contact with experienced experts from other areas which have already taken large numbers, your RSMP can put you in touch.

We will be working with government on how the second phase of the resettlement programme will operate. The LGA view is that this will require a programme that can meet the needs of more people, more quickly whilst minimising the impact on local communities; and utilising and funding central, regional and local governments’ strategic and operational expertise and innovative practice.

5. How will the new arrangements for settling Syrian refugees operate and be funded?

The LGA has been pressing for the Government to confirm that councils will receive additional funding beyond the initial 12 months if they agree to take refugees through this scheme.  As a result of these negotiations:

  • In the expanded scheme, there will be additional funding for refugees beyond the first 12 months and we understand this will not be taken from the overall council allocation.
  • Funding will be made available to assist with costs for the full five years of each refugee’s settlement in the UK to ensure LAs can plan ahead.
  • Funding for each refugee will follow them if they move home within the UK after they arrive.
  • We will continue to press for an arrangement to ‘top up’ exceptional costs, both for social care and housing.
  • These arrangements will be applied to all cases since the 20,000 expansion was announced so councils which come forward early will not be disadvantaged.

Government recognises the need for the funding available to be confirmed as soon as possible and for any scheme to be as easy to administer as possible. The Spending Review will finalise the funding package for the scheme, and the LGA will remain close to these negotiations until they are announced.

We know Government understands that there remain many details still to work out. From January, we expect the scheme to move into a second phase with stronger local government-led co-ordination, building on existing Regional Strategic Migration Partnerships. We are working closely with RSPMS, SOLACE, ADASS and ADCS to develop proposals.

We are working with Government to ensure that the new scheme can:

  • Meet the needs of more people more quickly whilst minimising the impact on local communities.
  • Provide as much advance information as possible as to who is arriving and when.
  • Resettle individuals with extensive health and social care needs.
  • Involve a simplified and faster funding mechanism to avoid the significant costs involved in negotiating for individual refugees as at the moment.
  • Works effectively the point at which refugees are assessed all the way through to their resettlement and ongoing support.
  • Build on existing regional structures and expertise

Home Office are seeking local government’s views on arrangements for process and funding through the LGA and we will consult colleagues in councils who are working on these issues.

6. What should you do if you want to participate in the current scheme?

In order to proceed quickly, whilst the expanded scheme is being developed, councils are being invited to take refugees based on the existing scheme. The Home Office have indicated that they wish to secure places for a 1,000 refugees by the end of the year. This will involve negotiation of costs locally for the first year and be based on the existing ‘statement of requirements’ for local authorities’ responsibilities.

The statement of requirements sets out exactly what the local authority must deliver under the Syrian VPR scheme. Any local authority who wants to resettle refugees must satisfy the Home Office that they have the relevant services and infrastructure in place to deliver the statement of requirements.

If you are interested in participating in this first phase, do continue to contact your Regional Strategic Migration Partnership (RSMP) listed above. The RSMPs will pass on relevant information to the Home Office so negotiations can begin, and on to the LGA as part of the central collation of expressions of interest.

This first phase will include those already placed and to be placed under the existing scheme. This first phase builds on the fact that central and local government have been working together to operating resettlement schemes for many years and have established effective networks to accommodate and support resettled people.

In the short term and on that basis, the Home Office also may contact individual local authorities or Regional Strategic Migration Partnerships (RSMPs) directly around possible participation in this first phase of the scheme. You may wish to involve your RSMPs in the detail of any negotiation given their expertise.

As noted above, this first phase is using an accelerated process with a view to working together to welcome many more refugees before the end of the year.

There will be many considerations which councils will want to take into account in considering participation on the first phase, and this is not a comprehensive list. There are some features of the scheme which are complex, and some have still to be clarified. Key issues include:

  • Both tiers of local government in 2-tier areas agreeing the approach, as housing, social care, education and wider responsibilities come into play;
  • Exploring with your health, education, care providers, faith, community and voluntary sector partners to identify capacity to support your own work locally;
  • Under the current scheme, the Local Housing Allowance is used to cover housing costs. If the rent paid exceeds the LHA those costs cannot be reimbursed through the scheme
  • Learning from other areas’ experience of supporting new arrivals settle into existing communities;

Do contact your RSMPs for any advice or queries before joining the scheme.   RSMPs may also be able to work with you on using the offers from other partners made locally and regionally, such as Housing Associations, faith, community and voluntary sector groups.

We are working with government to clarify when this initial short term phase will move to the subsequent long term phase, and what the second phase of the scheme will look like in practice. As above, from January we expect the scheme to move into a second phase with stronger local government-led co-ordination, building on existing Regional Strategic Migration Partnerships. We are working closely with RSMPs, SOLACE, ADASS and ADCS to develop proposals.

7. How does the current scheme work?

The UK has been involved in an existing scheme to resettle Syrian refugees for a couple of years. This currently offers one year funding for local areas to assist with integration, accommodation or any social care and health needs.

The UK sets the criteria and then UNHCR (the UN’s refugee agency) identifies and submits potential cases based on need for consideration. It currently prioritises those who cannot be supported effectively in their region of origin: women, children and young people at risk, people in severe need of medical care and survivors of torture and violence, refugees with legal and/or physical protection needs; refugees with medical needs or disabilities; persons at risk due to their sexual orientation or gender identity; and refugees with family links in resettlement countries.

UNHCR refer cases to the Home Office to check they meet eligibility criteria and to carry out medical and security checks. The Home Office retain the right to reject on security, war crimes or other grounds.

At the same time, the Home Office pass the cases to a local authority who has asked to participate in the scheme. The referral forms give detail on family make up, age and specific needs. The Local Authority is asked to accept or reject cases, and if it accepts, the local authority then provides details of the estimated costs. Further detail on any medical needs follows shortly after via a full medical health assessment report. On accepting a case, local authorities then need to arrange housing, school places etc. In parallel we would agree an arrival date.

The Home Office does not have detail of the cases before UNHCR refer them to us. As soon as a local authority wants to participate, they will send these referrals that give detailed information on the individual cases. If authorities want a particular make up of cases, the Home Office have indicated that should state this and they will do their best to match cases.

8. What is the LGA role in response to the current situation?

The member led LGA Asylum, Refugee and Migration Task Group is made up of regional member and RSMP representation covering all of the English regions, Northern Ireland, Wales and Scotland and focuses upon the issues around the asylum, refugee and migration agenda from a local government perspective.

The LGA, via the Task Group, has been involved in discussions with Government and with regions for a long period of time on how to work together to find sustainable solutions that minimise the pressures on local authorities, local communities and vulnerable individuals.

9. What do we say to residents offering accommodation?

Government has indicated that at this stage they don’t not think there will be a need to host Syrian refugees in homes and they are not asking people to come forward with offers of a spare bedroom.

Many organisations in the UK operate accommodation hosting projects to help other vulnerable asylum seekers and refugees. You can call the Red Cross’s dedicated phone line on 0800 107 8727 for more information.

If you have a property that could be used to house refugees, your private sector housing teams might want to collate the details of these properties in the first instance, 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 properties.

10. What do we say to residents making other offers of help?

You can direct residents to the government website which outlines what individuals can do to help:
Syrian refugees: what you can do to help.

A British Red Cross Crisis Helpline has been set up to triage calls to appropriate organisations on the following number: 0800 107 8727.

One of the priority groups will be children and young people, so you could offer fostering as a way of support and ask residents to contact the relevant team within local authority if they are interested in becoming a foster carer.

For the many other offers (such as local people wanting to make a donation or offer assistance in kind) you may want to direct people to the local and national charities which are offering support to refugees already in the UK.

Significant or substantive offers of assistance can be referred to the Home Office. This will ensure that the support provided is tailored to vulnerable people’s needs in the most appropriate way.

11. What is the current system for supporting asylum seekers and what is local government’s involvement in it?

Those who claim asylum after they arrive in the UK go through a different process. Those thought to have legitimate claims for asylum and are unable to support themselves are placed into accommodation and given an allowance to live on while their claims are considered. This support is funded by the government. Asylum seekers are dispersed across the UK, apart from London.

Simple claims are aimed to be processed within six months, but there are some complex cases that have lasted for much longer. The majority of decisions are made in favour of granting asylum. Once asylum seekers are given status, they are entitled to work and receive benefits – and if appropriate, apply for housing.

The only asylum seekers directly supported by local authorities are unaccompanied asylum seeking children. (Failed asylum seekers may also be supported if they have children or social care needs). Local areas will also have responsibilities for managing school admissions and any cohesion issues. Becoming a dispersal area is voluntary and there are agreed ‘cluster limits’ in terms of the number of asylum seekers per population that can be placed in any area. More information is available here:
Asylum support page on gov.uk.

12. What are the numbers of asylum seekers, refugees and migrants coming to the country?

Recent information on patterns of migration and asylum can be found here:
Migration Statistics Quarterly Report (PDF)

The United Nations Refugee Agency operates the current Syrian resettlement scheme. They have a ‘myth busting’ resource covering asylum seekers and refugees in the UK: The Facts: Asylum in the UK.

Further information can be found on Refugee Week’s facts about refugees.

13. What are local authorities’ responsibilities for failed asylum seekers?

This is a very complex and contested area of law. More information can be found here:
No Recourse to Public Funds page on Islington Council’s website.

14. How are unaccompanied children and young people currently supported?

Local authorities do provide support for children and young people directly, dependent on where they first claimed asylum. More information can be found here:
Processing an asylum application from a child guidance on gov.uk.

– See more at: http://www.local.gov.uk/refugees

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