I have permission to share Cllr Rosemarie Harris’s kind response to our request for information about future plans that the council might have to help with the unaccompanied children in Europe and any extension to the Syrian family re-settlement scheme. We had a similar humane response to our similar request to the leader of the council reassuring us that Powys continues to work with partners across Wales.
We continue to work with our links in Citizen’s UK/Refugees Welcome/Safe Passage and Lord Dubs. We are participating in the regular conference calls and our group also sent a donation to the Alf Dubs children’s appeal,which was set up to try to carry forward the legacy of the Kindertransport for a new generation of children. You, too, can donate if you wish! Jo will update us soon about the plans.
Many thanks for your email and I would be grateful if you would pass on my thanks to the members of the Hay Brecon and Talgarth Sanctuary for Refugees Group for the support they have provided in making a success of the resettlement of the families in Ystradgynlais.
As you are no doubt aware the council gave a commitment in October 2015, to accommodate 12 Syrian families in Powys over the duration of the Syrian Vulnerable Persons Relocation Scheme. We have so far accommodated six families in Ystradgynlais and by mid-April will expect to have accommodated six families in Newtown. Therefore the current council has met its stated obligation to provide humanitarian assistance to Syrian refugees, well ahead of schedule and through my close involvement in the scheme I feel I can state that it has been a great success.
If there is to be any additional offer made to accommodate additional families, either under the Syrian Vulnerable Persons Relocation Scheme or the Vulnerable Children Resettlement Scheme, this will be a decision for the newly elected council to make, following the local elections in May.
With regard to your request to accommodate Syrian families in the Hay, Brecon or Talgarth area, I can confirm that this is probably unlikely on the following grounds. First, we have a very limited supply of social housing in these communities and the overwhelming majority of privately rented properties are let at rents in excess of Local Housing Allowance rate, which means that they will be unaffordable by Syrian families who will initially be relying on benefit payments.
Second, we would want to accommodate families in one location to ensure that we achieve some economy of scale in the provision of services, such as school support and the provision of integration support. As we are unlikely to be able to secure sufficient housing for a number of families in the area, this means that we wouldn’t be able to develop such economies of scale for support services.
I am sure you appreciate we all acknowledge that we have a moral duty to do all we can to support those vulnerable children and young people who have entered the UK seeking asylum regardless of their categorisation under the various schemes/ legislation. We are also clear a logical, simple transparent approach to managing this situation needs to be agreed rapidly across Wales. In this regard, Powys County Council is working closely with the Welsh Government, Welsh Local Government Association, All Wales Head of Children’s Services and Association of Directors of Social Services (ADSS) to ensure that a coordinated approach is provided to those children and young people who have entered the UK seeking asylum.
The additional challenges for these young people face that we all face in the medium, to long term, is how to respond sensitively to the range and complexity of need, physical, social, cultural, educational and psychological, presented by traumatized young people separated from family and culture.
We would want to reassure you that Powys Council, working in partnership with colleagues across Wales and the regions, will ensure that we provide the appropriate support to these young people separated from their own family and communities.
County Councillor Rosemarie Harris
Cabinet Portfolio Holder – Property, Buildings and Housing