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Community Sponsorship

Volume 613: debated on Tuesday 19 July 2016

The refugee resettlement programme team is a tri-departmental team, based in the Home Office. This reflects the cross cutting nature of the resettlement programme. This written statement has been prepared by officials from the joint team and agreed by both myself and the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government.

The response of the British public to the refugee crisis resulting from the conflict in Syria has been one of overwhelming generosity, and many have been moved to make offers of assistance. At the Conservative party conference, the then Home Secretary said that we would build on offers of support to develop a community sponsorship scheme to allow individuals, charities, faith groups, churches and businesses to support refugees directly.

I am pleased to announce today details of how the Government will empower local communities to support the most vulnerable refugees through community sponsorship. This includes a “Help Refugees in the UK” digital register of offers from the public, and a scheme for full community sponsorship.

The “Help Refugees in the UK” register, hosted on the website, will make it easier for the public to support vulnerable refugees in the UK. Local authorities will be able to identify the goods and services that they require to support refugees, individuals will then be able to submit their offers, and the system will channel them to the areas where they are going to be used. “Help Refugees in the UK” is being launched in nine pilot local authorities initially. They are Broxtowe, Cambridge, Cornwall, Coventry, Gateshead, Lambeth, City of Nottingham, Wiltshire, and City of York. Offers of help made by members of the public in all non-pilot areas will be considered centrally by the resettlement programme team before being passed on to local authorities. In Scotland, offers of support will be directed to the “Scotland Welcomes Refugees” website through a link on the website.

The full community sponsorship scheme will enable community groups to take on the challenging but rewarding role of welcoming and supporting a refugee family in the UK. Full community sponsorship will commence on a small scale, and the resettled families will be among those referred by the UNHCR under the Syrian resettlement and vulnerable children’s resettlement schemes.

Accordingly, a ministerial arrangement under paragraph 1(d) of schedule 23 to the Equality Act 2010 has been made to allow a community sponsorship scheme for vulnerable Syrians resettled in the UK. I am placing a copy of the arrangement for this concession in the Library of both Houses of Parliament.

Community sponsors will be responsible for supporting the resettled family from the moment of their arrival in the UK. This will include, for example, meeting the family at the airport, giving a warm welcome and explaining UK and local culture, providing housing, helping them register with medical and social services, arranging English language tuition, and supporting them towards employment and self-sufficiency.

Supporting a vulnerable resettled family is a significant responsibility. The Home Office will approve every sponsoring organisation. The approval process will ensure that each prospective sponsor has sufficient resources—housing, financial and personnel; has a credible plan for supporting a resettled family, backed by relevant experience; and does not present a risk to the resettled family.

In order to develop the scheme, the Government have been working with a number of prospective sponsors and local authorities. Lambeth Palace are the first community group to be approved and receive a Syrian family.

Guidance on how to become a community sponsor will be published on the website today. This is an exciting and ground-breaking new development for resettlement in the UK. I hope that this new approach will help bring communities together and support these often traumatised and vulnerable families as they rebuild their lives, and contribute to and thrive in our country.