to welcome its first Syrian refugee families next year
Somerset will welcome an initial six refugee families next
year as part of a national programme to support those fleeing
The UK Government has pledged to settle 20,000 Syrian refugees
over a five year period, including 1,000 in the first group, and
has sought volunteer councils to offer resettlement.
Somerset is not a current asylum dispersal area so many organisations
which would support refugees have no presence here. However, there
is a desire to help from within the community, local authorities
Somersets five district councils, County Council and Clinical
Commissioning Group (CCG) have been considering how together they
can play their part through the Syrian Vulnerable Persons Resettlement
They have agreed to welcome an initial group of six families
in the spring, with the potential for more to arrive in the future.
A similar approach is being adopted in other parts of the region.
The scheme is fully-funded by the Government and families will
be housed in the private rented sector, having no impact on housing
waiting lists operated by district councils. Families will only
be resettled where the services, such as school places, health
and social care, have the capacity to cater for them.
No decisions can be taken about locations until more is known
about the families and their possible support needs. Initial discussions
have highlighted Mendip, Taunton Deane and South Somerset as the
most likely host areas, but all districts continue to be actively
involved in discussions and planning.
Community groups have been included in discussions and this will
continue, but initially it is the statutory authorities who need
to arrange housing, health, education, benefit income, individual
family support and interpreters.
On Monday (December 21st), Somerset County Councillors Anna Groskop,
Cabinet Member for HR, Health and Transformation; and Frances
Nicholson, Cabinet Member for Children and Families, jointly confirmed
the Countys support for the resettlement scheme.
On behalf of all the public sector organisations involved, they
said: "We take pride in being a warm and welcoming county
where people from all backgrounds have the opportunity to thrive.
This has been a real cross-organisation, joint effort and Im
delighted we are doing our bit to help those in desperate need."
"We know the people of Somerset are keen to help and this
is a measured approach to test our capabilities. Were a
rural county without existing support networks for refugees in
place and its important that we get this right."
All refugees will be subject to medical checks and enhanced,
national-level security vetting before entry to the UK. Details
of where the families are resettled will not be given so as to
protect their privacy.
Individuals wishing to offer help are advised to visit the Governments