Published Friday, 2nd October 2015

The Council Leader, Councillor V.W. Broad, in response to a Council Question on 1 October made the following statement.

I wrote to the Prime Minister to support his pledge to resettle refugees from camps bordering Syria, to ensure that we help those in greatest need of humanitarian aid. I offered the Council’s assistance for a number of affected families, perhaps around 10 or so, to house them and provide support to them in rebuilding their lives and finding work.

We are working with our neighbouring Councils, Surrey County Council and the Local Government Association to co-ordinate our response and we are awaiting further details from the Government on the arrangements for settling and funding Syrian refugees.

What we do know is that the Government plans to expand the existing Syrian Vulnerable Persons Relocation Scheme, introduced last year. It is likely that cost of local authority support for refugees will be met from the UK’s international aid budget for the first 12 months. This is expected to cover the cost of accommodation, integration support, health and education for the first year from arrival in the UK. Any shortfall in the funding provided to us will be met from Council reserves.

The current Government Scheme extends five years of Humanitarian Protection to Syrian refugees, which in practice means that they have five years’ leave to remain in the UK with full access to the labour market, public funds and benefits. The Local Government Association is calling on the Government to provide a firm commitment to Councils to fund the full five years.

We are keen to ensure that the support we do provide to Syrian refugees does not affect those residents already on our housing waiting list, and that there will be no impact on their housing applications or on the priority we give them.

We have already received offers of help from residents, for which I am grateful. We are co-ordinating these through officers and the Community and Special Projects Group will be involved. Although many people have offered up spare bedrooms, the Government has indicated that at this stage they do not think there will be a need to host Syrian refugees in people’s homes. Anyone interested in fostering a child is being asked to contact Surrey County Council.

We are advising residents that there is a Government website setting out what they can do to help Syrian refugees, which includes information about contacting the Red Cross and the work of voluntary organisations to support refugees. Once we have more information from the Government and the Local Government Association about how refugees are to be supported we will be able to advise further on how residents can help.