Oxford City Council has approved a programme to a resettle a minimum of eight refugee families a year for the next five years, to support the government’s refugee resettlement schemes.
The new resettlement programme will offer families private rented accommodation, and will use Home Office funding to provide support services that help ensure that the families are successfully welcomed and set up to begin their new lives in Oxford.
Based on previous successful resettlement projects, these services will include a holistic, person-centred, trauma-informed support service to enable families to become fully independent within the community. They are provided with support and coaching to engage with their landlords and the British education system, and have access to employment assistance and specialised trauma counselling.
Through government schemes, the council will receive grant funding of £20,520 per person for each household that it resettles in Oxford through the programme. This will ensure the new resettlement programme does not put more pressure on council budgets. The council has looked at the implications of not participating in government resettlement schemes - Oxford would still be very likely to need to support some refugee families to settle, but would not have access to government grants to cover the extra costs.
Oxford has already successfully settled 48 refugee families since 2015 under the UK Resettlement Scheme (UKRS), Afghan Relocation Allocations Policy (ARAP) and the Afghan Citizens Resettlement Scheme (ACRS), using a bespoke supported settlement approach. This has had a high success rate at enabling them to become finically independent, with 66% of the 30 Syrian families and since December 2021, 80% of the 10 Afghan and 43% of the 8 UKRS families now having at least one person in employment.
The UK, like the rest of Europe, is currently experiencing high refugee numbers due to the war in Ukraine, the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan and other conflicts in the Middle East and beyond. There are currently around 7000 Afghan refugees in bridging hotels across the UK, and the government has committed to resettling 20,000 Afghans over a three year period. The government has outlined further commitments to resettle refugees under schemes such as ARAP, ACRS and UKRS. All local authorities will need to play their part to support these and other refugees who have the right to settle in the UK.
“Oxford is proud to be a City of Sanctuary, together we have supported hundreds of refugees from Ukraine, Afghanistan and Syria and beyond to build new lives in the safety of our city.
“It is right to play our part in the UK’s refugee programmes but Oxford is an expensive city and we must be realistic in the scale of our offer, and ensure that it does not come at a cost to other services we offer residents.”
“This new five-year resettlement programme comes with significant government funding. With our partners we will provide services to make sure refugees can establish successful independent lives here in Oxford.”
Councillor Linda Smith, Cabinet Member for Housing