To receive a report from the Group Manager for Housing Services providing a written briefing on the latest developments relating to the Syrian Refugee Settlement Scheme and the new United Kingdom Resettlement Scheme. To also seek decisions, by way of a recommendation to the Cabinet, relating to the Council’s continuing involvement as well as approval for a proposal made by a community sponsorship group to support the resettlement of an additional household in Mid Devon and to seek consent to enable this to move forward.
The Group had before it a report * from the Group Manager for Housing Services providing a written briefing on the latest developments relating to the Syrian Refugee Settlement Scheme and the new United Kingdom Resettlement Scheme seeking decisions relating to the Council’s continuing involvement; and approval for a proposal made by a community sponsorship group to support the resettlement of an additional household in Mid Devon, and to agree consent to enable this to move forward.
The Group Manager for Public Health and Regulatory Services provided a response to the questions posed during Public Question Time:
Will you back both type of schemes to enable more refugee families to come to Mid Devon?
Members had previously agreed to support the existing Syrian refugee scheme so this was not a specific matter for consideration in the report presented to the PDG today. The decision on whether to recommend to Cabinet whether MDDC takes part in the new UK Refugee scheme was covered by recommendation 2 of the report (item 9).
Commit to take at least 5 families?
Potentially another family could be supported by the existing scheme, as set out in recommendation 1 of the report, subject to the scheme reopening post-Covid pandemic. Whether one or more additional families were supported under the new scheme was a matter for recommendation 3. Context on the numbers of additional families being supported by other Devon LAs was set out in section 8.5 of the report.
Regarding the question posed by Anthea Duquemin, the Group Manager stated that it was very challenging to provide assurance to a person wishing to purchase a property at this point in order to resettle a refugee family. There remained to be significant risks involved.
The contents of the report were outlined with particular reference to the following:
· There had been 3 families settled under the ‘old’ scheme, however, this scheme had currently paused nationally as a result of the pandemic.
· It was envisaged that the ‘new’ scheme would operate much in the same way as the ‘old’ scheme and would continue to be administered by Devon County Council.
· Regarding community sponsorship the Council was required to indicate whether to support this or not.
· The Council’s involvement could be limited to the provision of a health and safety assessment of a property being made available to the scheme.
Consideration was given to:
· The number of families resettled by other local authorities in Devon.
· Problems caused by the rural locations of some of the properties in relation to transport, a lack of halal food, access to education and health care services.
· The generosity of the people of Crediton who had generally been very welcoming to the refugee families.
· Good transport links to and from Crediton and Exeter.
· Confusion regarding the total number of families to be permitted under the ‘old’ and ‘new’ scheme.
RECOMMENDED to the Cabinet that:
a) The proposal made by a community sponsorship group with regard to the resettlement of an additional refugee household in the district under the existing Syrian Refugee Resettlement Scheme be approved.
(Proposed by Cllr J Cairney and seconded by Cllr G Barnell)
b) The Council should take part in the new United Kingdom Refugee Scheme (UKRS).
(Proposed by Cllr G Barnell and seconded by Cllr J Cairney)
c) A maximum of 5 additional families are supported through either the existing or the new scheme. Should the existing Syrian scheme reopen and be available locally then under existing commitments 2 of these additional 5 families should be supported through that scheme, leaving a balance of 3 families to be supported under the new UK scheme. If none or just 1 family can be supported under the Syrian scheme then the balance of placements should be rolled over into the new scheme.
(Proposed by Cllr Mrs C Daw and seconded by Cllr L Cruwys)
Reason for the decision:
The Council is required to agree the proposal relating to community sponsorship before it can go forward, in line with Home Office rules. However, once agreed, the community group will take the lead on this. The Council will be required to confirm that any property chosen complies with relevant health and safety legislation and will be invited to participate in post- arrival visits but there is no requirement to join these visits as DCC can take the lead and report back, as appropriate.
Other local authorities in Devon have pledged to support the UKRS and DCC are keen to promote Devon as a county welcoming to refugees.
Officers recommend that the decision relating to the number of households to be re-settled in the District under UKRS should take account of the pledges made by other local authorities in the County.
Note: (i) * Report previously circulated; copy attached to the signed minutes.
(ii) Cllr C Eginton requested that his vote against recommendation (c) be recorded.