The future of the Syrian resettlement programme could be put at risk by local authorities’ lack of suitable accommodation and school places, auditors warn.
Under the Syrian Vulnerable Persons Resettlement programme, the Government plans to resettle 20,000 people, who are registered in camps in Jordan, Lebanon, Iraq, Egypt and Turkey, by May 2020.
However, the National Audit Office (NAO) has heard from councils that the ‘main barrier’ to their participation in the scheme is a shortage of suitable houses and flats, and a lack of school places.
The programme will need an estimated 4,930 houses or flats and around 10,664 childcare and school places over its lifetime, the NAO said.
The auditors also discovered there is no estimate of the total cost of the programme to the UK. They suggest it could be up to £1,112m to the end of 2019-20 and up to £1,734m over its lifetime.
The NAO complimented local authorities on being able to rapidly resettle 1,000 people by Christmas 2015, but they warned more people need to be resettled each quarter than have been so far in order to meet the overall target.
Responding to the NAO report, Cllr David Simmonds, chairman of the Local Government Association's asylum, refugee and migration task group, said: ‘We have previously said that we were confident in ensuring that there would be sufficient pledges to support the Government's aim to resettle 20,000 people by 2020 and the Home Office has now confirmed this to be true.
‘The focus must now be on ensuring families are well supported. Councils are and will be helping some of the most vulnerable families fleeing Syria who will need access to ongoing support from local services to cope with injuries, disabilities and to recover from the severe trauma they have experienced.’
'Councils have an excellent track record in welcoming asylum seeking and refugee children and their families for many years, and continue to work hard to support the Syrian resettlement scheme alongside all the other schemes in current operation,’ he continued.
‘In these other schemes, they have no say over when people will be allowed to enter the UK, but stand ready to help when they do. There are also thousands of asylum seekers who are not housed by councils but who rely on their services and support.’
For more on this visit The MJ (£).
Image: Alexandre Rotenberg / Shutterstock.com