Agenda Item No 17

The Vale of Glamorgan Council

 

Cabinet Meeting 21st May 2018

 

Report of the Cabinet Member for Housing and Building Services

 

Home Office Programme to Support the Resettlement of Vulnerable Refugees from Syria, through the Community Sponsorship Scheme

 

Purpose of the Report

  1. To provide Cabinet with details of the Home Office Community Sponsorship scheme ("the Scheme")
  2. To update Cabinet on the progress of the Croeso Penarth Community Sponsorship application.

Recommendations

  1. That Cabinet considers the content of this report and provides consent to the approval of the Croeso Penarth Community Sponsorship application.
  2. In pursuance and consideration of recommendation 1, the Cabinet recognises both the benefits and risks associated with participation in the scheme.

Reasons for the Recommendations

  1. The Community Sponsor ("the Sponsor") is required to obtain written evidence from the Authority that it consents to the approval of the application. Without Local Authority consent, the application will not progress. Approval will also demonstrate the Council's commitment to provide assistance to vulnerable refugees from Syria as a result of the humanitarian crisis, through the extended Home Office scheme
  2. In consideration of the Croeso Penarth application, the Regional Resettlement Co-ordinator conducted extensive stakeholder consultation. Lead Officers from statutory services have made recommendations based on the contents of the Resettlement Plan, Home Office (draft) Application, the Safeguarding Policy and other key documents. It also enables Cabinet to fully understand the consequences of hosting a community sponsorship scheme, including the impact on local resources and the implications for the Authority in the event that a Sponsor is unable to fulfil its obligation.

Background

  1. In January 2014 the UK Government made a commitment to resettle Syrian refugees who had been displaced to neighbouring countries as result of civil war. In September 2015, UK Government announced an expansion of this commitment and the formation of the Vulnerable Persons Resettlement Scheme (VPRS) ("the Programme") which is run in partnership with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). The primary purpose is to resettle 20,000 of the most vulnerable refugees from the region over the remainder of the current parliament, by May 2020. On 3rd July 2017, the Home Secretary announced that eligibility for the VPRS would be extended to all those refugees fleeing the conflict in Syria, regardless of their nationality.
  2. On 21st September 2015, Cabinet supported proposals to adopt a regional approach, and for the Vale of Glamorgan Council to participate in the VPRS in partnership with the City of Cardiff Council (Cabinet minute C2920 refers).
  3. The Authorities pledged to jointly resettle up to sixty refugees ("beneficiaries") in the first year, of which, four families were to be accommodated in the Vale and six in Cardiff. It was anticipated that this commitment would be repeated annually for the lifespan of the programme.
  4. A Collaboration Agreement (between the Vale of Glamorgan Council (VOGC) and the City of Cardiff Council (CCC)), was signed on 17th May 2016 for an initial twelve month term.
  5. The Vale of Glamorgan successfully resettled four families in the first year and has, so far, resettled two families in the second year, with plans to receive an additional two families in June 2018.
  6. In July 2016, the Community Sponsorship Scheme was launched, which enables community groups (sponsors) to become directly involved in refugee resettlement. The Home Office intends to resettle one hundred and twenty families under this scheme.
  7. Resettled families will be granted Humanitarian Protection, meaning they will have permission to stay in the UK for a period of five years. During this time, they will have the right to work and to claim relevant benefits. After five years the resettled family will have the option of applying to extend their leave in the UK.
  8. Unlike the Local Authority-led scheme, community members are responsible for the provision of integration support for a family for at least the first 12 months of their time in the UK, and accommodation for the first two years.
  9. Each prospective group must apply to the Home Office to sponsor a family. The Home Office is responsible for assessing and approving each application on a case-by-case basis, and separate approval is required for each family sponsored.
  10. The Guidance issued to Local Authorities (attached as Appendix 1), sets out the necessary requirements, and contains a mandatory ten-step process to becoming a sponsor. See pages 7 to 9.
  11. Sponsors are encouraged to liaise with Local Authorities early in the process to help build a positive working relationship and to cultivate links with relevant service areas and internal/external partners. Authorities have a formal role in the application process, and are involved at steps 2, 5 and 8.
  12. Under step 2, the potential sponsor must obtain written evidence from the Local Authority (format to be determined by the LA) that it consents to the approval of the application. This is the focal point of this report, and the implications of approval are explored in further detail below.
  13. Citizens Cymru, acting as the Lead Sponsor for this proposal, submitted an application pack to the Vale of Glamorgan Council (VOGC) in January 2018, and requested consent to the application. The pack contained draft copies of the Resettlement Plan, the Home Office Application and the Safeguarding Policy.
  14. The VOGC and Cardiff City Council are working in partnership under the VPRS, so it was determined that a regional approach would be the most appropriate way to respond to the application, along with another application relating to Cardiff in order to promote consistency across the region.

Relevant Issues and Options

  1. The Guidance, issued separately to potential sponsors and LA's (Appendices 1 & 2), establishes the Home Office as the agency responsible for assessing applications and managing the community sponsorship process. The Guidance specifies that LA's will not be asked to assess any applications; assess the group's ability to deliver refugee resettlement; or consider if the group has suitably trained or vetted volunteers.
  2. The Guidance does not prescribe a formal process for Authorities to follow in deciding whether or not to give consent. The Guidance does, however, set out the grounds on which a local authority might object, including:
  • insufficient capacity to provide certain crucial local services in the proposed housing area (e.g. lack of school places);
  • concerns about community tensions in the proposed housing area;
  • where they have reason to believe that the community sponsor is not suitable to undertake the resettlement of vulnerable adults and children; or
  • another appropriate reason.
  1. As set out in the Guidance, in the event of a breakdown of a community sponsorship arrangement, such that a Sponsor becomes unable to deliver their commitments, care of the resettled family would fall to the host Local Authority (see page 13, LA Guidance).
  2. In the event that a family becomes homeless the local authority would be expected to consider housing for the family in accordance with their normal procedures (see page 12, LA Guidance).
  3. It is reasonable, therefore, that Authorities give serious consideration to these factors, and seek to test the resilience of each application prior to further Home Office scrutiny. It is imperative that LA's understand the impact on local resources, in order to make a decision which is right for all stakeholders, including the community in the proposed housing area. It must be remembered that Community Sponsorship is still in its infancy, and the few existing sponsors are in rural authorities where the social and economic dynamics are different, and while there is still pressure in housing and other resources, it is not quite as significant as in more urban areas.
  4. Since neither Authority had been directly involved in the development of the Resettlement plans, both determined that full consultation must take place with relevant internal and external stakeholders, including statutory service providers. The existing governance structure for the Regional VPRS programme was used as a platform for engagement with Health, Community Safety Partnership, Housing, Social Services, Education and the Welsh Strategic Migration Partnership (WSMP).
  5. Stakeholders were asked to review the Resettlement application pack, and to identify specific concerns or operational challenges. The findings were consolidated and shared with the community sponsors ahead of a Regional Panel meeting, which took place on Friday 20th April, at County Hall Cardiff.
  6. Both Community Sponsorship groups tendered responses in advance of the meeting, which was attended by key LA representatives; Jonathan Cox (Deputy Director of Citizens UK and Lead Sponsors for both applications), core Community Sponsorship members and the WSMP
  7. The Panel considered each application consecutively and the community sponsors, supported by Jonathan Cox, were given the opportunity to provide additional supporting evidence and to respond to any unresolved issues raised in the stakeholder reports.
  8. During lengthy discussions, the Sponsors were able to provide satisfactory responses regarding the planning and implementation of the Resettlement Plan, and were able to mitigate all concerns raised by the Panel. Appendix 3 sets out the areas identified by the stakeholders, and the responses received from the Sponsors.
  9. The Croeso Penarth Group was advised that officer recommendations would be submitted to Cabinet at the earliest opportunity and the decision communicated to them. Cabinet has two options, as set out below.
  10. Option1: Consent to the approval of the Croeso Penarth application.

Option 2: Refuse consent to the Croeso Penarth application.

  1. Cabinet is asked to support Option 1 in so far as the community sponsorship application provides reasonable assurance that, with Local Authority support, the Group would be able to meet the long term needs of a refugee family, and that the impact on community cohesion and resources is acceptable.

Resource Implications (Financial and Employment)

  1. There are no Employment implications.
  2. Because the Community Sponsors are expected to resource and deliver the family's needs, according to the statement of requirements, it is not expected that a host Local Authority will suffer financial detriment from the scheme. Therefore, the Local Authority cannot claim the Year One tariff funding for sponsorship cases. It is entitled, however, to claim grant funding towards education costs, in line with the LA-led scheme:

Unit costs

 

Adult

Children 5 to 18

Children 3 to 4

Children under 3

 

Education costs

0

4,500

2,250

0

         

The appropriate level of funding will be transferred to schools who accept beneficiaries from the relevant age groups. Schools are responsible for recording expenditure for activities such as language support.

  1. Funding for years 2 to 5 may be available to local authorities. This will be determined on a case-by-case basis following a review of the needs of the resettled family and how they will be met. LAs can make a business case to the Home Office to apply for the money.

Unit costs

13-24 Months

(Year 2)

25-36 Months

(Year 3)

37-48 Months

(Year 4)

49-60 Months

(Year 5)

£5,000

£3,700

£2,300

£1,000

  1. No funding is available to support Health or Education in years 2 to 5, as it is assumed that costs incurred will be met by those departmental budgets.

Sustainability and Climate Change Implications

  1. There are no climate change implications.
  2. The main sustainability challenge will be to ensure accommodation used is affordable for refugee families who may be subject to the Benefit Cap.
  3. There is a significant shortage of primary school places in some local catchment area schools. However, the Home Office has agreed to provide suitable case referrals to mitigate sustainability implications, and the Authority will screen and approve applications as part of a multi-agency group, to further reduce any impact.

Legal Implications (to Include Human Rights Implications)

  1. As the Council will not be entering into any agreement to assist in the support of this family, there are no legal implications.

Crime and Disorder Implications

  1. South Wales Police is a member of the Regional Leadership Group and, as a key stakeholder, are closely involved in the vetting of properties used for refugee accommodation. Background checks will be carried out on all proposed accommodation to ensure there are no risks such as localised hate crime and antisocial behaviour. 
  2. The Police have confirmed that there have been no policing issues to date, and tension monitoring processes are in place to identify situations which could create a risk either to the refugees or the wider public.
  3. No refugees resettled through the LA-led programme in the region have been involved as perpetrators of crime, or have created an increased risk to public safety.

Equal Opportunities Implications (to include Welsh Language issues)

  1. Consideration of the cultural, religious and language needs of refugees are at the forefront of the programme delivery. Strategic partnerships have been formed to ensure that beneficiaries have access to the services they require, include housing, health, education and social services. Community Sponsors must ensure that sponsored families receive language support, through translation and interpretation services, and have access to English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) classes to allow them to carry out basic transactions in the communities in which they've been placed, and to aid their long term integration.

Corporate/Service Objectives

  1. This report is consistent with the Corporate Plan 2016 - 20 Well-being Outcome 1: An inclusive and safe Vale.

Objective 2: Providing decent homes and safe communities:

Work with partners to ensure the programme is considerate of local community sensitivities.

Ensure sustainable, affordable accommodation and support services for particularly vulnerable groups.

Work with the community to develop support networks and improve integration.

Policy Framework and Budget

  1. This report is a matter for Executive decision.

Consultation (including Ward Member Consultation)

  1. As the proposed housing area is in Penarth, Ward Member consultation has been undertaken, and any comments will be reported to Cabinet in due course. 
  2. Through the Regional Panel, key partners, including Social Services, Housing and Education, have been consulted, and have confirmed their support for the sponsorship application. This support is based on the low impact of the programme, and the mitigating actions put in place by the sponsorship group.

Relevant Scrutiny Committee

  1. Homes and Safe Communities

Background Papers

Home Office Application

Croeso Penarth Resettlement Plan

Home Office Guidance for Local Authorities - Appendix 1

Home Office Guidance for prospective sponsors - Appendix 2

Stakeholder / Community Sponsor responses - Appendix 3

Contact Officer

Tom Dodsworth - Regional Resettlement Co-ordinator

Officers Consulted

Mike Ingram, Head of Housing and Building Services

Pam Toms - Operational Manager, Public Housing Services

Martine Cole, LAC Education Coordinator and Lead Professional EAL

Natasha James, Operational Manager, Safeguarding and Service Outcomes

Responsible Officer:

Miles Punter, Director of Environment & Housing Services