The Chief Officer Finance Performance and Change reported on an update on the Council's refugee relocation schemes, specifically the Syrian refugee resettlement scheme and the Afghanistan refugee resettlement scheme. She also sought approval to resettle a further three refugee families under either the UK resettlement scheme, the Afghan citizens resettlement scheme or the Afghan relocations and assistance policy.
The Chief Officer Finance Performance and Change informed Cabinet it had initially approved the resettlement of six families and then a further five families. To support the Syrian refugee resettlement schemes, a procurement exercise was undertaken to appoint a dedicated support provider for the service. A separate procurement exercise was undertaken to appoint a dedicated housing management service for the privately rented properties utilised to accommodate the families. The Council had claimed a Home Office Refugee Resettlement Grant for each refugee relocated. Funding for education was also available in the first year of support, with the amount dependent upon the age of the child.
The Chief Officer Finance Performance and Change also informed Cabinet that the Council had committed to resettling three families through the Afghanistan Refugee Resettlement Scheme, with funding being in place for a period of three years, with funding tapering off each year. Funding for education was also available in the first year of support, with the amount dependant on the age of the child.
The Chief Officer Finance Performance and Change reported that the Council had successfully met its pledge of resettling 11 Syrian refugee families and that the families were at different points in their resettlement journey. Dedicated resettlement support to these families was relatively minimal, with the focus at this stage on ensuring the long-term immigration status of the families was resolved, given that the families had been initially relocated on the basis of being granted leave to remain for five years only.
The Chief Officer Finance Performance and Change also reported that the Council had successfully met its initial pledge of resettling 3 Afghan families, with the families being resettled in various parts of the County Borough. She stated that the UK government aimed to resettle around 5000 people in the first year of the Afghan Citizens Resettlement Scheme and up to 20,000 over the coming years. She stated that local authorities would be asked to consider increasing any existing pledges made, to support this commitment. She outlined a proposal to approve the resettlement of the further three families under either the UK resettlement scheme, the Afghan Citizens Resettlement Scheme, the Afghan Citizens Resettlement Scheme or the Afghan Relocations and Assistance Policy. Flexibility was needed to accept a family from any of the three resettlement schemes, to ensure resettlement of the highest presenting need, as identified by the Home Office. She stated that the recommendation to resettle a further three families had been determined by taking into account capacity within the Taff Housing contract for the provision of support.
The Cabinet Member Wellbeing and Future Generations thanked all who had been involved in the resettlement schemes and she stated that it would be an oversight if she did not mention the crisis in Ukraine and that Wales and the County Borough wished to create a sanctuary for the Ukrainian people. She proposed an amendment that the Council participate in the Ukraine resettlement scheme and delegate authority to the Chief Officer Finance Performance and Change and Cabinet Member to take part in the scheme without delay.
The Cabinet Member Social Services and Early Help was pleased see the success of the resettlement scheme, however she expressed concern at the risk of trafficking and exploitation of women who could be travelling alone. She thanked all staff, the health service, and schools for helping families resettle in the County Borough. The Leader thanked the schools for the excellent work undertaken in supporting refugees who had resettled in the County. The Deputy Leader added his support and he believed that every effort should be made to support the resettlement schemes. The Cabinet Member Education and Regeneration stated that the schools would do all they could to support refugees.
The Leader stated that the Welsh Local Government Association had met with Welsh government ministers in the last week to support the people of the Ukraine. The Welsh Local Government Association on behalf of all the Leaders of the local authorities in Wales had called on the UK government to grant visas to allow people from the Ukraine to enter the UK. The Cabinet Member Communities recognised the support of the people of the County Borough and expressed his thanks to Councillor David White and to Heidi Bennett of the Bridgend Association of Voluntary Organisations who had organised the vigil in the town centre or Bridgend, attended by over 200 people and raising over £1,200 for the people of Ukraine. The Leader stated that Bridgend had stood in solidarity with the people of Ukraine and commented that these had been the darkest days on the continent of Europe since World War Two. He informed Cabinet that he would provide updates to all Members on the support the Council would provide, and the leader of the opposition had pledged his support. He stated that Councillor Ross Penhale Thomas was supporting the organisation of a vigil in Maesteg and that the people of Ukraine need the help and support of the county Borough of Bridgend.
RESOLVED: That Cabinet:
· Noted the contents of this report;
· Approved participation in the Afghan Citizens Resettlement Scheme;
· Approved the resettlement of a further three refugee families with flexibility to resettle families under either the UK Resettlement Scheme, the Afghan Citizens Resettlement Scheme or the Afghan Relocations and Assistance Policy depending on the highest presenting need for resettlement at the time.
Approved participation in the Ukraine citizen Resettlement Scheme and that delegated authority be given to the Chief Officer – Finance, Performance and Change in consultation with the Leader and appropriate Cabinet Member(s) to ensure that when the UK Government allows refugees from the Ukraine into the UK that the Council fully participate in the support of refugees without delay.