With winter approaching, it is good to hear that 1000 Syrian refugees have arrived in the UK. In Hertfordshire none as yet have arrived, but it is really heartening to hear that Stevenage have already agreed to support the Vulnerable Persons Relocation (VPR) scheme and have accepted Syrian refugees. The first family will arrive after Xmas
So what about the rest of Hertfordshire? Things are progressing more slowly.
We know that nine councils are supporting the scheme and from the additional briefing attached from HCC we can see that Stevenage, East Herts, St Albans and Watford have been in contact with the Home Office to start the relocation process and Stevenage have offered to potentially relocate some refugees just after Christmas. The Council has allocated officers from Children's Services and Health & Community Living who attend planning meetings within these Districts.
A meeting has taken place with the local councils and a representative from HCC with the Refugee Council this month to look at the possibility of working with them to help provide the support and practical assistance that will be required to ensure the refugee families are given the best possible opportunity to resettle successfully in Hertfordshire. Councils have been asked to send numbers to the Refugee Council so that they can cost the support programme.
How will this work? The plan is that each council will take up to 10 Refugees (we think per year), so two to three families. At present they are not planning to take unaccompanied young people.
The families will be identified and screened by UNHCR from the refugee camps bordering Syria. The will identify the most vulnerable families, so where a member of the family has health needs or other needs that cannot be dealt with in the camps.
For more information look at the briefing paper on our website www.hwsf.weebly.com or Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/groups/HertsWelcomesSyrianFamilies
Those arriving will have already been granted refugee status and will have a right to remain for five years, after which their case will be reviewed.
Each council will receive about £8000 for each refugee they receive for the first year. They will also receive funding past the first year for up to five years.
The county lead is Jenny Coles and the county council have indicated that they are ready to provide support through Health, Adult and Children's services. This is a big step forward from their position in August.
So what is needed and what is the network Herts Welcomes Syrian Families (HWSF) doing?
Accommodation is going to be a key issue. Each council will have to identify houses or flats from the private sector.
We are asking anyone who has information about landlords, empty properties or available flats or houses to let their local housing departments know.
At a meeting HWSF had recently with Anne Main MP for St Albans, she suggested that councils might consider using land that is not built on and put on mobile homes as a temporary measure for families. This might enable more families to be put together. We have asked her to raise this with the council.
We are continuing to write to our local councillors and councils to find out when refugees are likely to arrive and would ask you to do the same.
HWSF have developed a form for people to complete about the support they can offer. We are collating this county wide so we can quantify what can be offered. Please complete this form by requesting a copy from
East Herts and Broxbourne
Stevenage and North Herts
Hertsmere, Watford, St Albans, Three Rivers
We are still able to come and talk to your group or faith group about the VPR scheme.
At the moment until the families arrive we do not know exactly what their needs will be but we do anticipate that they may be rather isolated so we will be looking for Arabic speakers and the families may need transport.
We also know that one of the main needs will be English language and there is funding for this. However if anyone in the family is unable to access language classes we hope that we could provide some 1:1 provision.
At this stage we are not fundraising but may well do in the New Year. We know that it is planned that there will be a case worker. Having spoken to the Refugee Council they are able to provide a very comprehensive service for which they will charge. We feel that it is essential that the council employs someone who has experience in this field and they are the most experienced. We have urged the council to consider this and it is good to hear that they are meeting with the Refugee Council. We have also offered to fundraise to support this. Again, please ask your council or local councillors about what is happening and urge them to persuade the council to work with the Refugee Council or Red Cross who have experience in this field.
HWSF are also planning an open event on the 31st January from 2.00 – 4.00 at St Paul’s Church in Blandford Road St Albans AL14JP. More details to follow but we will have speakers from Syria talking about the refugee situation.
Herts Welcomes Syrian Families (HWSF)