Syrian Vulnerable Persons Resettlement Scheme
In the autumn of 2015 Birmingham City Council pledged to welcome 550 Syrian refugees into the city, as part of the government’s national commitment to welcome 20,000 refugees by the end of 2020. The council is on schedule to meet this target with the final flight scheduled to arrive in March 2020 and to date the scheme has welcomed 481 children, young people and adults to Birmingham. Approximately half of the people who have arrived so far are under 18.
Refugees included in this scheme are vulnerable for a range of reasons. Many experience torture or are exposed to family deaths resulting in Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and other serious mental health conditions. In addition, a number of refugees have physical health conditions or disabilities affecting mobility.
Recognising the time needed for families to resettle and integrate the support provided through the scheme lasts for five years from the date of arrival. The council will be supporting families included in the scheme until 2025.
The council’s role and responsibilities
The council receives funding from the Home Office for families that arrive through the scheme, which is used to commission services and activities that are required to help each family resettle and integrate in the city. The services provided in refugees’ first year in the city include the provision of private rented sector housing, enrolment in local schools, supporting and navigation through welfare and benefits, GP appointments and other health services, city orientation, access to English language learning, as well as support addressing other needs such as special education needs (SEN). Refugee Action delivers these services on behalf of the council.
The SVPRS is delivered in partnership with a number of partners providing support to families included in the scheme. The breadth and depth of partners involved have brought a range of skills and expertise across the statutory and voluntary sectors, as well as wider ownership of the scheme in the city.
Are commissioned partners, delivering services and support on the council’s behalf include:
- Refugee Action: Refugee resettlement, orientation, accommodation and support services for families during their first year in the city. They also provide the Birmingham Navigators service (helping refugees to integrate into their local areas).
- Spring Housing Association: Accommodation, welfare and tenancy support, as well as family support.
- Restore: Befriending service
- Bethal Doula: Pregnancy support
- Refugee Migrant Centre: Immigration advice
- Ashley Community Housing: Employability support
- NHS BSHMHFT: Mental health awareness
- Handsworth Creative Arts: Amaal Project (visual participatory arts)
- Celebrating Sanctuary Birmingham: Culture Connects (music based project)
In addition, the council hosts a monthly Community Day providing a social opportunity for the refugees to meet and socialise as well as network with providers. The day also provides an opportunity for families to meet with the council and other organisations to provide feedback about their experience in the city so far.
The council also operates a community grants programme to support the development of community projects, activities and services, which can support Syrian refugees and the scheme’s aims, outcomes and priorities. The funding is available to groups and organisations working directly with Syrian refugees, doing things to improve community cohesion in areas where Syrian refugees are being accommodated, or improve cultural awareness of refugees amongst front-line services. It is intended that the grants programme has a broader impact on the resettlement and integration of all refugees and migrants in the city.
An example of activity funded through the programme is BEEAS (Birmingham Ethnic Education Advisory Service), which have been provided funding to provide regular English language learning opportunities, as well as family learning during the school holidays.