Tamworth to support in resettling Syrian refugees in UK

Thursday, 8th October 2015

TAMWORTH Borough Council has pledged to accommodate up to 10 families of refugees escaping the conflict in Syrian and is committed to giving them help and support in terms of access to health, education, support services and housing.

With the first tranche of refugees from the conflict in Syrian due in the UK shortly, Central Government and the major national agencies have been planning and co-ordinating their response with local government through a network of regional bodies.

The West Midlands Regional Migration Partnership has been co-ordinating activity between the Local Government Agency and Government, providing information, advice and guidance to all public, private and voluntary sector bodies seeking to support or contribute to the challenge.  At a more local level, Staffordshire County Council has provided a resource in order to plan and manage the county-wide response.

Cllr Daniel Cook, Leader of Tamworth Borough Council, said: “Tamworth Borough Council has been keen to play an active role in supporting the national response to the crisis right from the start.  However, it was essential that the local, regional and national responses were planned, co-ordinated and managed so as to avoid logistical problems and further trauma to the refugees.

“With the network in place, we are now clearer about what is required; what we can commit to and what support the government will provide.”

It is anticipated that across the region, County and Metropolitan Boroughs such as Staffordshire and Walsall will be seeking to accommodate up to 50 families each.  Based upon this information, District and Borough Councils are committing to meet a proportion of the total, having regard for the fact that each family, couple or individual will need access to health, education, support services and housing.

In preparing the Tamworth offer, it was important to understand the needs of the refugees, the availability of services, their capacity to take on more and how to ensure that the offer was sustainable.

Tamworth Borough Council Chief Executive, Tony Goodwin, co-ordinated the Tamworth response.  He said: “One of our biggest challenges was accommodation.  Despite being one of only two districts in Staffordshire with its own housing, you may think it simple. However, with a waiting list that includes several high priority cases, I had to ensure that whatever Tamworth offered, it would not and could not be to the detriment of our own vulnerable residents.  The decision by Government to support the costs, particularly in the first year has enabled us to approach private sector landlords, thereby not adding to the current pressure on our own stock.

“The response from partners has also been positive, with schools, GPs and health providers stating that they can accommodate the numbers we are talking about.”

In terms of numbers, both Tamworth and Cannock Chase Councils are committing to accommodate up to 10 families.  The decision to specify ‘families’ was taken in order to sustain family units; to avoid further trauma and because it was considered the most effective use of scarce accommodation.  As yet, there are no details as to when the first families may arrive but one thing we do know, is that Tamworth is ready to help.

Tony Goodwin added: “In typical Tamworth fashion, the local voluntary, charity and faith groups are ‘ready to go’.  In a brief survey undertaken by one of my teams, there was a clear and strong commitment to do whatever is needed to support these people.  These are people who until quite recently were playing their part in one of the most stable countries and economies in the Middle East – doctors, teachers, firemen, technicians, engineers, builders – every day people and their families – not unlike us.

“Once they are here and we understand what their immediate needs are – for example clothes, care or comfort, One Tamworth is Perfectly Placed to help.”