Readers may be aware that Malvern has now welcomed two refugee families to our town. Some may also be aware that they have arrived via two separate schemes. As the kind of provision differs under these two schemes, some explanation is required.
- The Syrian Vulnerable Person’s Relocation scheme (SVPR)
This dates from 2015 when David Cameron, the then Prime Minister, made the commitment that the UK would resettle 20,000 Syrians in need of protection. This scheme is run through local authorities. Malvern Welcomes had already been actively campaigning to persuade Worcestershire County Council to play its part in taking refugees. In the spring of 2016 Worcestershire finally decided to resettle 13 families and contracted with Refugee Action to manage the resettlement. We regretted very much that none of these families was placed in Malvern, due to the lack of availability of suitable housing.
This year, following discussions with Malvern Welcomes and other Welcome groups in the county, Worcestershire has agreed to resettle a further 12 families under the SVPR. A family has recently arrived in Malvern under the scheme, which continues to be managed by Refugee Action. Malvern Welcomes is not expected to be involved in the logistical aspect of their resettlement as this is being managed by Refugee Action. However, we are now in regular contact with the family, having agreed with Refugee Action and Worcestershire County Council, that Malvern Welcomes should play a significant role in supporting the family as befrienders.
- The Full Community Sponsorship scheme
In 2016 the government launched a second scheme – Full Community Sponsorship (FCS). This differed markedly from the SVPR, in that local community organisations, rather than the local authority, could apply to the Home Office to accept a family for resettlement. In doing so the organisation would be responsible for raising all the money required to equip a house, pay any rent voids that may arise, cover the cost of interpretation fees, ensure that the family had English language teaching etc. The minimum sum we had to show that we had, was £9000. Under this scheme we could decide what to provide for the family, within the limits of our income and being aware that what we might provide for one family should be equitable with the next family to arrive under the FCS.
The existence of two differing schemes has inevitably led to comparisons being made as a result of differing approaches to expenditure e.g. should internet be provided? Should a TV be provided and the licence paid for? The FCS scheme has inevitably provided the family with a wider volunteer support network. Having these two schemes running side by side does not sit easily.
We do not know how things will change in the future, but it looks likely that the government will promote the FCS schemes, in part as it saves them money and also as research indicates that FCS have a high rate of success in integration.