How much does it cost UK councils to take in refugees?

In Luton, letting agents contacted all landlords on their books and filled the town’s quota of properties within hours.

Powered by article titled “How much does it cost UK councils to take in refugees?” was written by Tamsin Rutter, for on Thursday 14th July 2016 09.15 UTC

The former prime minister David Cameron pledged in September last year that the UK would take in 20,000 Syrian refugees by 2020 – roughly 50 people per local authority area. But nearly one year on, more than a third of councils have not yet offered to take any, according to analysis by the Local Government Chronicle.

How close are we to the target 20,000?

Councils have committed to rehousing 8,146 refugees out of the 20,000 and more than 1,800 have been resettled so far, a Home Office spokesperson told the Times.

Councils have agreed to house 560 refugees in Gloucestershire, 520 in Kent and 600 in Lancashire. But only 11 of the 32 London boroughs have agreed to take refugees, and none of the 10 in Greater Manchester.

Of the 148 local authorities responsible for overseeing social care, 53 have refused to accept Syrian refugees due to financial pressures and shortage of housing.

How much does it cost councils to take in refugees?

The 20,000 refugees will be resettled under the Syrian vulnerable persons relocation scheme, which was introduced in January 2014 and expanded in September 2015.

Under the scheme, councils that take in refugees can claim £8,520 per person (pdf) from the government, to cover the costs of accommodation, translation, administration and transport, among other things. This funding continues for five years: dropping to £5,000 in the second year, £3,700 in the third, £2,300 in the fourth and £1,000 in year five.

Councils also receive £4,500 for each child aged five to 18 years and £2,250 for those aged three to four years, to cover the cost of education.

However, council leaders estimate this only covers 70%-80% of the total costs of housing refugees, according to the Times.

Where are the refugees living?

The Local Government Association is coordinating the vulnerable persons relocation scheme, but council housing waiting lists are already vastly oversubscribed so local authorities are looking elsewhere to house refugees.

Some housing associations have stepped in. Horton Housing in Bradford was the first organisation in the UK to sign up to the scheme, according to David Orr, chief executive of the National Housing Federation.

But for the most part, refugees will be housed in the private rented sector. A Citizens UK resource (pdf) cites several examples of innovative ways in which councils are persuading private landlords to rent to refugees.

In Luton, letting agents contacted all landlords on their books and filled the town’s quota of properties within hours. Darlington council asked churches and faith groups to act as guarantors for refugee families. Bristol relied on the media, newspapers and events to raise awareness among landlords.

Some local authorities are offering cash incentives to landlords who can rent a home to a Syrian refugee. The London borough of Barnet will pay £2,000 for a 12- or 15-month tenancy with no break clause and £5,000 for a 24-month tenancy with no break clause.

How does the scheme match up to previous UK resettlement programmes?

In 1999, the Kosovan evacuation programme gave temporary protection for 4,000 people fleeing ethnic violence in former Yugoslavia; and in 1992-96, the Bosnian evacuation project gave temporary protection to 3,000 people.

From 1979-92, 22,500 Vietnamese and ethnic Chinese people were resettled in the UK from camps in Hong Kong, having fled the Vietnam war. Some 3,000 Chileans fleeing Pinochet regime found a home in the UK in 1973-79; along with 42,000 Ugandan Asians expelled by Idi Amin’s government in 1972-74.

In 1957, 20,000 Hungarians fled Soviet occupation for Britain; and before that 210,000 Polish and other refugees fleeing the second world war were resettled between 1940-50.

How many UK asylum seekers are Syrians?

Asylum applications increased by 29% to 32,414 in 2015, the highest number of applications since 2004 (when it was 33,960). Of that total, 2,609 applications came from Syrian nationals – more than the 1,194 Syrians granted humanitarian protection under the vulnerable persons resettlement scheme in the same year.

People can only claim asylum from within the UK, while the scheme resettles people from camps on the borders of Syria.

Who houses asylum seekers and how much does it cost?

While councils receive £8,520 for each Syrian refugee they resettle under the scheme, G4S, Serco and Clearel – the private companies that won six contracts to house all of Britain’s asylum seekers in March 2012 – get just £3,500 to house each asylum seeker.

According to the FT, the number of asylum seekers now exceeds the availability of low-cost housing in some areas, forcing these companies to turn to more expensive hotels. Some councils are refusing to accept refugees.

Serco is expecting losses of £115m, and G4S £25m, by the time the contracts finish in 2019.

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