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Derbyshire to host Syrian Refugees

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The report below will be going to the County Council Cabinet next Tuesday and sets out proposals for hosting up to 50 Syrian refugees in Derbyshire from November. 

 

FOR DERBYSHIRE (Health and Communities) The Strategic Director – Economy

Transport and Communities updated Cabinet on the Syrian Vulnerable Persons

Resettlement (VPR) Scheme in Derbyshire and sought approval for a partnership

approach to the scheme and for Derbyshire County Council to act as a single point of

contact and lead partner, including responsibility for financial arrangements. The

report also sought approval for the offer that Derbyshire would be making to the

Government to take up to fifty Syrian refugees initially from November 2016.

In September 2015, the Prime Minister announced that the UK would accept

20,000 refugees in response to the crisis unfolding across Syria and Europe. East

Midlands Council was the lead organisation for the East Midlands Strategic Migration

Partnership which had been established in 2000 to co-ordinate activities regarding

asylum seekers in the region. Since then its role has progressively expanded to

include strategic co-ordination in respect of all forms of international migration and

those accepted on the VPR Scheme would be processed in one of the existing United

Nations High Commissioner for Refugee camps. They were then granted a

Humanitarian Protection Visa which allowed them to remain in the UK for five years

with access to employment and entitlement benefits and at the end of this period if

they were unable to return to Syria, they might be eligible to apply for settlement in the

UK.

East Midlands Council has undertaken a regional role of co-ordinating the

arrival of refugees to the region at quarterly intervals. Nottingham City Council,

Nottinghamshire County Council and Nottinghamshire Districts were the first areas

within the East Midlands to take part in the scheme and East Midlands Councils and

the Nottinghamshire Partnership had shared their knowledge and experience of the

scheme so far and Derbyshire had benefitted greatly from this.

The majority of costs of the Syrian resettlement were paid directly to Education

and Health. Funding of £20,520 per refugee was available to local authorities over a

period of five years on a sliding scale from £8,250 in year one down to £1000 in year

five. However this was not paid until the refugees had arrived in the country and

claims were submitted by the relevant local authority in the area in which they are

resettled. The County Council would be responsible for the financial arrangements of

the scheme and would claim the funding which would then be used to cover the costs

of other organisations.

The Council’s obligations in relation to the funding were frontloaded in year one

as a requirement to the scheme was the provision of integrated caseworker support

for each family in the first twelve months, but with a clearly defined exit strategy.

Thereafter, years two to five, the allocation of funding was at the Council’s discretion

and was likely to cover more generic provisions such as English speaking lessons or

support to gain employment on a group basis. The on-going caseworker support

would be on an exception on a case by case basis with the intention being to

encourage and support independence and integration and not dependence on local

authorities.

Fundamental to resettlement was a focus based programme of support, usually

provided by a third sector agency in other areas. Support provided in the initial twelve

months was quite intense, enabling and including tailored case worker support and

introduction to the local area, services and amenities. The support service would also

provide advice, guidance and training to support the resettlement process and work

was currently being undertaken with the County Council Corporate Procurement to

develop a specification for a case management and support service with a view to

tendering this in due course. The earliest a system could be in place would be

October/November 2016. The Partnership Group would also be required to ensure

provision of English speaking as a foreign language lessons, which might be

commissioned separately as well as interpretation services from the funding.

Approval was sought to procure these essential support services with the aim to then

submit a further report to Cabinet in October 2016, seeking approval to appoint the

preferred supplier.

One of the most important learning points from the first wave of authorities

involved in resettlement, had been the need to adequately resource the co-ordination

and planning roles. Partners agreed in principle, to develop a Syrian VPR Scheme

and asked the County Council to manage and co-ordinate the development and

implementation of the scheme. This was also the Government’s preferred model.

To help shape and design the scheme and to co-ordinate activity on behalf of

the Partnership Group, the Council was recruiting two posts which would form part of

the wider, Safer Derbyshire Partnership, based at County Hall. These posts were

essential to the effective development of the scheme and the total costs of both posts

with on-costs for a period of six months equated to approximately £37k, the costs of

which should ultimately be met from national funding paid to local areas. These posts

therefore required some pump-priming in order to develop and establish a scheme for

Derbyshire. To date a commitment of £15k had been made towards the costs of

these posts by partners, the remaining costs of £25k would be covered by the County

Council, subject to approval, through the use of underspends in the Chief Executive’s

Office. Approval was sought to allocate £80k from the Chief Executive’s Office

underspend to cover initial costs required, but also to underwrite the total costs for the

initial twelve month period as a contingency. Any funding not required would be

returned to the General Reserve.

Work had been undertaken to establish potential locations, numbers and size of

suitable housing which was then mapped against other scheme requirements,

including access to school places, dentists, GP surgeries, hospitals, benefits offices

and Post Offices. This analysis indicated that up to twelve family units could be

resettled in Derbyshire over two phases and based on this information, Derbyshire,

through the Syrian VPR Programme Partnership, was looking to make an offer to

Government of initially taking fifty individuals over two intakes, following which the

Partnership would review the position and the possibility for further intakes. It should

be noted that offers of accommodation would be very much based on what was

available at the time the refugees were due to arrive.

In early May 2016, the Government announced that any unaccompanied

children registered in Greece, Italy or France before 20 March 2016, were eligible for

resettlement. The Government would work with Save The Children and the UNHCR

to decide who to take, probably looking at whether the child had relatives in the UK

and if they were the most vulnerable, at risk of exploitation or abuse in their current

situation. Work was underway in the Children’s Services Department to prepare for

unaccompanied children/minors and this would be the subject of a separate report to

Cabinet.

RESOLVED to (1) approve the partnership approach outlined and agree that

Derbyshire County Council act as a single point of contact and the lead partner for the

Scheme, including responsibility for the financial arrangements;

(2) approve the procurement of the essential support services via the County

Council’s Procurement process;

(3) approve the allocation of £80k from the Chief Executive’s underspend

from 2015-16 to provide initial essential funding and to underwrite the first twelve

months’ cost of the two co-ordination posts;

(4) approve the offer that Derbyshire would be making to the Government to

take up to fifty people initially from November 2016;

(5) note the establishment of two posts to co-ordinate this Scheme;

(6) note that the approach and report had been developed with and agreed

with the Syrian VPR Partnership Group; and

(7) receive further reports to update Cabinet on progress

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commented 2016-09-18 21:10:41 +0100
This is a start but we should demand plans to increase it dramatically, the 20000 target set by the government is far too low for a country of our size, prosperity and level of involvement in the crisis. As a start the CLP should be suggesting an initial target of 500 for Derbyshire rising to 1000 as soon as practical.

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