Question from: County Councillor Jackie Charlton Subject: Support by PCC for people seeking sanctuary (asylum seekers and refugees)
As there is some concern that a response is still outstanding to the questions outlined below from Knighton & District Refugee Support Group, it seemed prudent and right to ask these questions here as it is a matter of public concern.
1) How many people seeking sanctuary (asylum seekers and refugees) did Powys County Council support to resettle in Powys in 2019 – 2020?
2) Does Powys County Council have a willingness to support people seeking sanctuary and if so how many people does it intend to support this year?
3) Is PCC willing to support and resettle unaccompanied children seeking sanctuary?
4) If PCC is willing to support people seeking sanctuary have they communicated this commitment to the UK Government?
Response by the Portfolio Holder:
Thank you for the following questions which relate to an important aspect of our work as a Council, with apologies for the delay in responding. There is no specific service area working solely with asylum seekers and refugees and, therefore, the following information has been gleaned from different service areas.
1. How many people seeking sanctuary (asylum seekers and refugees) did Powys County Council support to resettle in Powys in 2019 – 2020?
The Housing Support Grant providers reported supporting 1 refugee in 2019, and 1 refugee in 2020 in terms of housing related support (as set out in The Welsh Government’s Outcomes Framework reporting).
The situation for asylum seekers is different. Those seeking asylum, who come to Wales, are required to reside in four dispersal areas (Newport, Swansea, Cardiff and Wrexham). Asylum seekers, unlike refugees, are not permitted to work or to claim benefits. They are accommodated and provided with a weekly allowance by the Government. To date there has been no specific accommodation provided for asylum seekers in Powys, although it is believed that some may have found accommodation with private individuals.
During the year 2019 to 2020 Powys County Council was able to offer sanctuary to 7 Syrian families (typically two adults and two to three children) under the Vulnerable Person Relocation Scheme (VPRS). This scheme, funded and run by The Home Office, has been running since 2016 and aimed to settle 20,000 Syrian refugees across the UK over a five-year period. All Local Authorities in Wales were invited to participate in the scheme. Powys CC opted to be a part of it and gave a pledge to resettle 18 Syrian families across Powys. Currently there are 15 families settled across Ystradgynlais, Llandrindod and Newtown.
Powys County Council did not support any unaccompanied asylum seeking (UAS) children during the period.
2. Does Powys County Council have a willingness to support people seeking sanctuary and if so how many people does it intend to support this year?
Support via the Social Service’s Department’s Housing Support Grant is available to anyone seeking support to find and sustain suitable accommodation, as a result of a range of issues. This can include, but is not limited to, fleeing domestic abuse and sexual violence, substance misuse, sensory disabilities, learning disabilities, and other vulnerabilities.
As set out in the response to question 1 above, Powys County Council is committed to the Vulnerable Person Relocation Scheme (VPRS) programme and can resettle a further 3 families under its existing pledge during the coming twelve months, subject to available accommodation.
3. Is PCC willing to support and resettle unaccompanied children seeking sanctuary?
It is possible to access support through Social Services’ Housing Support Grant, as local connection criteria do not apply, allowing greater flexibilities with the support sourced. However, resettling unaccompanied asylum-seeking children requires specialist services and appropriate placements, to provide the necessary support. This specialist service is not currently available in Powys as the settlement of UAS children ... view the full minutes text for item 1.