Council Leader welcomes Refugees Minister and sets out concerns for future of schemes

Councillor Barry Wood, leader of Cherwell District Council, has this morning (Monday 15 August) welcomed Refugees Minister Lord Harrington to Bicester.

Published: Monday, 15th August 2022

Cllr Wood talking to refugees minister

He explained the extent of the work done under resettlement schemes in the district and set out the need for clarity over future arrangements.

The Minister met some of the Ukrainian and Afghan refugees the council has helped welcome to north Oxfordshire and heard how partnership working is fundamental to the success of resettlement work at the local level. The Minister also heard about the significant challenges both the supporting organisations and Ukrainian families face as their initial six-month sponsorship arrangements with their UK hosts come to an end.

Cllr Wood also highlighted the different arrangements for refugees under the Homes for Ukraine scheme, the Afghan Relocation and Assistance Policy, and the Syrian Vulnerable Person Resettlement Programme, and signalled the need for different groups to be treated equally.

Councillor Barry Wood, leader of Cherwell District Council, said: “We fully support the government’s Homes for Ukraine scheme and its other refugee and asylum initiatives. I am proud of the successful work that has been done in Cherwell district to support all those who have needed to make a new start in our area.

“Showing compassion to those caught up in humanitarian crises is something that comes naturally to the communities of Cherwell district and I have been incredibly impressed by the generosity shown by local people and by the hard work and cooperation of our system partners across Oxfordshire. Working with our partners is fundamental to our success, both now and into the future.

“But we are now moving into a phase where the government needs to consider what long term future support will be given to local authorities, partner organisations, and host families.

“As a housing authority we are particularly mindful of the desire of our guests to live independently in settled accommodation. Yet, equally, we are under no illusions about the scale of demand for social housing from local people.

“I am very pleased that Lord Harrington accepted our invitation to meet some of the Ukrainian and Afghan refugees we’ve welcomed to north Oxfordshire and I have discussed with him that councils need long term solutions to support all those who need to make a new life in the UK.”

The council’s work in support of Ukrainian and Afghan refugees includes helping develop programmes of specialised support, co-ordinating with other involved partner agencies, providing accommodation; and helping new arrivals access local services and information.

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