Stevenage’s response to the refugee crisis

We have been shocked by the reports of people forced to flee their homes in Syria to avoid conflict. Stevenage is committed to welcoming refugees seeking sanctuary and providing the support they need to help them re-build their lives.

Syrian Vulnerable Person Resettlement (VPR) Scheme

Stevenage Borough Council is in ongoing discussions with the Home Office in response to the Government’s resettlement scheme. Stevenage has offered to support 20 individuals in family groups in private rented accommodation.

We are currently awaiting the detail on the plans to bring more Syrian refugees to the UK. This detail will inform our activities, along with our engaged partners, local voluntary and support agencies.

All local authorities, like Stevenage, will have resettlement arrangements co-ordinated and arrangement via central government. This is because the Government is working with the United Nations to identify individuals who qualify for the scheme - their focus is on priority groups including women and children at risk and those with medical needs.

People identified under the VPR scheme will have already been recognised as being in need of protection. They will be allocated to come to Stevenage having already been granted refugee status. Each family will receive a personalised support package dependant on their needs for five years. This will cover all physical, emotional and practical needs and part of the support package funding covers education.

What can I do?

We are aware that many Stevenage residents are keen to help and give their support to the on-going humanitarian crisis.

If you wish to make a donation there are many international humanitarian aid organisations working in the UK and abroad. They would benefit from cash donations to allow them to respond quickly and effectively. Some of the agencies responding to the refugee crisis are:

  • British Red Cross Appeal
  • Oxfam
  • Save the Children's Child Refugee Crisis Appeal
  • UNHCR's Emergency Appeal
  • UNICEF
  • The World Food Programme

The British Red Cross has set up a Crisis Helpline to triage calls to appropriate organisations: 0800 107 8727.

You can find further information here: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/syria-refugees-what-you-can-do-to-help--2 

I want to offer some accommodation

At this point, the Government is not anticipating the need to accommodate Syrian refugees in people's houses. Any refugees coming into the country via the Syrian VPR scheme will be provided with housing as part of the resettlement package.

If you have a property that you would consider letting please email refugee.info@stevenage.gov.uk. We would be interested in hearing from you if you have a property which is:

  • a self-contained home with its own front door (so it's not shared)
  • available to rent for at least 12 months
  • available for private letting and you'll accept rent at Local Housing Allowance rate

Support for Landlords

We are working with landlords to secure longer term accommodation i.e. for the five years. We will work with landlords to provide support and families will be given guidance as to how to manage all aspects of their tenancy. Landlords will also conduct regular inspections.

What is Stevenage Borough Council doing?

We have already met with our partners to discuss how we can best support Syrian refugees. We will make more detailed plans over the coming months.
 
We have also met with the Home Office to confirm our position and to understand when we anticipate that we will be ready to accommodate refugees.

We have set up a team specifically to work on this to ensure that any resettled refugees will have a smooth transition into the community with the support that is required. They will be housed across Stevenage - in private rented accommodation - and not in just one area as the view is that we would families to become part of the community and not to be singled out for any reason.

We recognise the need for forms and information to be given to the refugees in their own language. A guide to Stevenage will be produced, which will have details of services and who to contact. One of the key requirements is that the refugees are met at the airport by people that can speak their language to welcome them and to provide the needed information.

Provision is being made for translation services as part of the support package for each family.

FAQs

Will families coming in at a later point receive the same level of support?

Yes, the funding is for five years per family. A family housed in year one or year four, will each have the support and funding for a full five year period if required.

Will the refugees be able to stay after the five years?

As a refugees they will be able to stay here either long-term or indefinitely. If their homeland is more stable they may choose to return to rebuild their lives but some may choose to stay.
 
http://www.redcross.org.uk/~/media/BritishRedCross/Documents/What%20we%20do/Refugee%20support/UKS_RefugeeWeek_MYTHBUSTER_15_WEB.pdf

Given that it is only 20 people, can we not escalate their move here more quickly?

The important thing is to have infrastructures and accommodation in place to be able to provide a complete package to each family. At this stage it is unknown as to the dates and numbers per year; this could vary, but will be no more than the 20 in five years.

How can I donate items?

Anyone wanting to donate can complete one of the forms at reception at the council offices at Daneshill House and the items will be passed onto the British Red Cross.