The Committee gave consideration to a report from the Assistant Director Homes and Communities with the purpose of updating Members on the Home Office move from the Vulnerable Persons Resettlement Scheme (VPRS) to the United Kingdom Resettlement Scheme (UKRS) and to seek support to explore opportunities to assist with the Afghan Locally Employed Staff scheme (LES). It was explained that, following a pause in the VPRS due to Covid-19, the Government had replaced the VPRS with the UK Resettlement Scheme (UKRS) which almost mirrored the previous scheme, the main difference being the wider defined area from which refugees would be accepted. This was now a global catchment with a focus on the Middle East and North Africa.
Members heard that West Lindsey was a member of the Lincolnshire Refugee Resettlement Partnership. This partnership was in turn a member of the East Midland Migration Partnership which had been tasked with establishing the appetite to transfer the pledges from the VPRS to the new UKRS. At the present time, the Afghan (LES) scheme was the priority for the Government. A number of authorities had already pledged their support but there was an increasing and urgent need for more authorities to come forward with offers.
It was explained that, should Members pledge their support, Officers would liaise with Registered Providers for suitable property and this information would be shared with the lead organisation to co-ordinate. Grant funding was expected to be available for each family relocated, meaning there was no financial burden expected to fall on the Council. It was also highlighted that, given the fast moving pace of events in Afghanistan, figures provided at the time of publication of the report had likely changed, however Officers would be working on the most up to date information available to them.
Members of the Committee voiced support for the schemes and acknowledged the urgency of the situation in Afghanistan. There were concerns raised regarding families being housed in hotels and the longer term impact on access to, for example, healthcare and education. It was explained that the hotel usage was in advance of allocating suitable properties to a family and the wider need assessment for healthcare and education was taken into account when identifying suitable locations for individuals and families. The support in place was arranged across a network of organisations, including the NHS and education authorities.
Having received overall support for the schemes, the recommendations within the paper were moved and seconded, and, on taking the vote it was unanimously
a) it be approved for Officers to fully investigate the lessons learnt from the previously agreed Vulnerable Persons Resettlement Scheme (VPRS) and for a report to be brought back to the Committee with a proposal regarding transferring the commitment from the VPRS to the United Kingdom Resettlement Scheme (UKRS); and
b) it be pledged to assist with the Afghan Locally Employed Staff (LES) scheme and authority be delegated to officers to facilitate that assistance, subject to the ability to source appropriate accommodation through registered provider (RP) partners and having obtained assurance of ongoing support from Government; and
c) Details of those assisted be shared with Members as appropriate.