Up to 12 refugee families to be offered homes in South Cambs

Cllr Hazel Smith, lead cabinet member for housing in South Cambridgeshire. Picture: CONTRIBUTED

Cllr Hazel Smith, lead cabinet member for housing in South Cambridgeshire. Picture: CONTRIBUTED - Credit: Archant

Up to 12 refugee families from war-torn countries including Syria, Iran or Sudan will be offered homes in South Cambridgeshire in a three-year plan.

Following a decision in April 2019 to house a small number of families as part of its contribution to the national and international commitment to assisting refugees, South Cambridgeshire District Council has already helped four families – made up of 15 individuals in total – to start new lives in the district.

At a cabinet meeting on Monday, councillors agreed to continue to provide help for up to four new refugee families per year for each of the next three years, if funding and support continue to be available. Around 48 individuals could be helped in total.

This will include those who have been forced from their homes in Syria, Iran or Sudan, who require urgent medical treatment, are survivors of violence and torture, and include women and children.

It is anticipated that the waiting time for local families – who are already on the council’s housing list, and who are in the greatest need – will not be affected.

The council will be able to decide which housing it offers to the programme, thereby ensuring the least impact on existing levels of need within the district.

SCDC worked with an existing resettlement team at Cambridge City Council to integrate the four families who arrived during 2019/2020 into their new homes and communities, and to ensure practical support was in place.

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This included access to Arabic speaking support workers, help with registration for welfare support and other relevant services, such as liaising with the local education authority to ensure school places would be available for the children.

Any new offer of accommodation by the district over the next three years will be subject to the continuing partnership arrangements with Cambridge City Council to provide the ongoing support required and the availability of longer-term funding from government being equivalent to that provided for the first arrivals as part of the Syrian Vulnerable Persons Resettlement Scheme.

The government’s pledge to assist 20,000 people as part of the SVPRS was itself part of a United Nations project to aid refugees in Syria and surrounding countries and is distinct from other refugee services that focus on people already within the UK.

South Cambridgeshire District Council’s five-year 2020-2025 Business Plan commits to working national, regional and local partners to support the needs of refugees and asylum seekers.

Councillor Hazel Smith, lead cabinet member for Housing on SCDC said: “We’ve been really pleased to have been able to help some refugees who were fleeing terrible conditions to find new homes in South Cambridgeshire. This is now about continuing to do the right thing as human beings. Hopefully, these new arrangements will help change the lives of some of the most deserving people.

“I know that South Cambridgeshire residents will continue to extend a warm welcome to new members of our community in the months and years ahead. With our stock of around 5,500 Council homes, we will be able to decide which properties are offered as part of this programme. Therefore, as with the first phase of this scheme, we do not anticipate this arrangement having any impact on Council house waiting lists.”