"How wonderful it is that no one has to wait, but can start right now to gradually change the world!"
CHARIS is working with Reset to shape a national community-led resettlement programme to support refugees affected by the Syrian crisis, as they rebuild their lives in the UK. We are funded by the Home Office and philanthropic foundations, mobilising the skills, resources and compassion of communities, faith groups, businesses and refugee charities.
Through community sponsorship, a community group supports the empowerment of refugee families to become self-sufficient members of their new community by:
meeting the family at the airport
finding suitable housing (the families receive housing allowances)
finding English language classes and practising English with the family
registering children in schools
helping them find a job
making sure the family can access suitable medical and social services
helping them acclimatise and understand British culture
offering friendship and advice as they settle into their new lives
Community volunteers take on the responsibility that would normally fall to local authorities and professional charities by welcoming a refugee family and supporting them to adapt to life in the UK. This is a rewarding experience for everyone involved.
Being a community sponsor harnesses the generosity of local people, creating new bonds and friendships. It breaks down barriers and offers critical support to refugees at an extremely vulnerable point in their lives. All of the refugee families would have experienced immense hardship and heartache. Community sponsorship is a rewarding opportunity for people across the country to make a real difference to people’s lives.
Acting as a community sponsor to a resettled family is hugely rewarding, but it is also a significant responsibility. To make sure that you are prepared to resettle a family, your group will need to create a clear plan for how you will resettle and integrate the family into a safe and supportive environment. This will involve:
showing that your group (or its partners) have experience working with vulnerable people
finding and securing suitable housing
getting the permission of your Local Authority
demonstrating that your group has funds available to respond to any needs not covered by the benefits your family will receive.
In addition, your group will either need to be, or be partnered with, a registered charity or community interest company (you can even set up a new charity for your group). Working towards meeting these requirements takes time, as well as a little effort, motivation and goodwill. CHARIS is here to ensure you get the support and training you need to participate in this rewarding scheme.
The Home Office approves every sponsor. The approval process is designed to establish that the prospective sponsor:
has sufficient resources (housing, financial and personnel) to support a resettled family, including £9000 in reserves;
has a credible plan for supporting a resettled family, backed by relevant experience; and
does not present a risk to the resettled family.
You can apply to be approved as a sponsor using the application form and resettlement plan template found on their website. The Home Office will assess your suitability to be a community sponsor, according to the criteria set out below.
Local Authority gives consent to a prospective sponsor to operate as community sponsor in that area
Prospective sponsor submits application for approval as a community sponsor
Application considered against criteria for approval
Agreement with sponsor signed
Family to be resettled proposed for allocation to sponsor
Sponsor and local authority consider and jointly agree allocation
Resettled family arrives (typically six weeks after allocation is agreed)
Your organisation must have status as either:
a charity, registered with the Charities Commission in England and Wales, the
Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator (OSCR) in Scotland, or the Charities Commission for Northern Ireland;
an individual or body falling within section 10(2)(a) of the Charities Act 2011;
a Community Interest Company, registered with Companies House.
There must be a named individual with responsibility for the sponsorship arrangement, the ‘lead sponsor’. The lead sponsor should hold a permanent and senior position within the organisation. Typically, they will be a member of the board of the charity or community interest company, or hold the position of Chief Executive or director or equivalent. There must be a clear line of accountability between the lead sponsor and the personnel delivering the Resettlement plan.
Refugee families are vulnerable people fleeing conflict. The Syrian Vulnerable Persons Resettlement Scheme (VPRS) resettles those who are affected by the Syrian crisis, which means most families resettled in the UK under the VPRS or the Vulnerable Childrens Resettlement Scheme (VPCS) are Syrian, although some may be from other nationalities such as Iraqi or Sudanese. They will primarily be Arabic speakers and are referred by the UNHCR (United Nations High Commission for Refugees) from the region surrounding Syria. These families primarily have Arabic as their main language. Sponsors are not able to identify or select a specific individual, family or nationality to sponsor, but it is possible to indicate the type of language support that can be provided on the application form.
The resettled family will be granted refugee status and five years ‘leave to remain’ in the UK. During this time, they will have the right to work and access to public funds including being able to claim mainstream benefits. After five years the resettled family will have the option to apply for indefinite leave to remain in the UK.