Councils support humanitarian efforts to protect and support refugees and have delivered a wide range of support across different government schemes over many years.
- Councils support humanitarian efforts to protect and support refugees and have delivered a wide range of support across different government schemes over many years.
- Local government wants to support the resettlement of those fleeing violence in Afghanistan and many councils have already pledged to help resettle locally employed staff from Afghanistan under the existing government scheme.
- Councils stepped up rapidly during the Syrian crisis to support many thousands of vulnerable people through the Syrian resettlement scheme. They stand ready to do so again.
- There are a number of ongoing schemes which are putting pressure on local government resources, and on which we are calling for Government to take a coordinated and joined-up approach:
- Afghan resettlement: many local areas have already pledged to accommodate Afghan locally employed staff under the existing scheme. Around 2000 individuals have already arrived, with similar numbers expected in the coming weeks.
- Asylum dispersal: numbers of asylum seekers have risen dramatically in recent months and this has led to increased pressure on Home Office procured accommodation across the country, particularly through the use of hotels to accommodate asylum seekers at very short (or no) notice. There are significant operational concerns in many areas including pressures on local services and public health risks as a result of unrelated people having to share rooms. The LGA is working with councils and with the Home Office to seek to widen dispersal, which is unfunded, to help take pressure off those areas which are currently accommodating exceptionally high numbers, but the difficulties of current circumstances should not be under-estimated.
- Unaccompanied asylum seeking children: a new rota system is in place through which councils in each region of the UK are taking responsibility for the care of asylum seeking children. Numbers are exceptionally high but the rota is so far working well and councils are stepping forward admirably to support those vulnerable young people. However, we are very concerned about the use of hotels to accommodate children on arrival to the UK and want to see those facilities stepped down as soon as possible.
- More widely, the use of hotels by government for compulsory quarantine for international arrivals from “red list” countries is putting further pressure on local areas. Protocols are now in place to improve engagement with local partners before new quarantine hotels are opened but local areas with high numbers of hotels remain extremely concerned about pressure on local services and the need to ensure safeguarding and other council responsibilities can be undertaken safely. The LGA is asking for a coordinated approach to hotel procurement by different government departments and clear protocols to ensure adequate engagement in advance of new facilities being opened.
- We would therefore ask that any new Government resettlement scheme works carefully with local areas to take account of existing pressures on communities and local services, and to plan arrangements which support new arrivals in the best way possible. It should be voluntary for councils to participate and fully funded to ensure it does not impact adversely on areas which are already under very great strain.