Lack of clarity on refugee resettlement poses threat to long-term success

13 January 2017

The Public Accounts Committee report warns that despite encouraging progress it will be a significant challenge to resettle 20,000 Syrian refugees in the UK by 2020.

Clarity needed on what local councils should provide

In the report, the Committee commends central government, local authorities and other partners in the Syrian Vulnerable Persons Resettlement programme for their efforts to date.

However, it finds there is a lack of clarity around responsibilities and entitlements under the programme which could threaten its success in the long-term.

In particular, the Committee is concerned that some councils—which volunteer to participate in the programme—are confused about what they are expected to provide to refugees and exactly how this should be funded.

Uncertainty whether survivors of torture or violence are getting specialist help

Some refugees are uncertain about what they are entitled to, and what is expected of them, and it is "not yet clear whether survivors of torture or violence are getting the specialist help they need".

The Committee calls on the Home Office to regularly review the number of remaining indicative pledges made by councils to resettle refugees.

It should work with those councils to ensure they are able to provide firm offers of support and "more clearly specify what local authorities are expected to provide to refugees to address any current disparities or confusion".

Measurements of programme's success "too vague"

The Home Office should communicate details of the programme fully and clearly to refugees, says the Committee; review provisions for teaching English to refugees, and work with delivery partners to review how victims of torture are being identified and supported.

The Committee finds central government plans for evaluating the programme "are still too vague" and urges it to set out an effective framework for measuring its success against indicators such as progress with English and employment.

Chair's comments

Meg Hillier MP, Chair of the PAC, said:

"Syrians now make up the largest refugee population in the world and the UK is playing its part in helping people who are truly desperate.

While the programme team was right to take a fresh look at the programme last year, more work is needed to make it sustainable in the longer term.

This is a voluntary programme, but one with significant ambition, and it is vital councils' initial pledges of help translate into firm offers of accommodation, support and services for refugees.

Central government must carefully monitor this process and also be clearer with local authorities, already wrestling with significant financial challenges, about what they are expected to take on.

More must also be done to ensure refugees understand the programme, not least their entitlements and restrictions.

It is a stark fact that more than half of the refugees resettled under the programme by the end of June last year had suffered torture or violence and it is critical that such people receive specialist support.

Our Committee has previously highlighted the shortcomings in access to mental health services and we call on the Government to ensure a plan is in place to properly support refugees in need of them.

It is important to recognise the efforts and achievements of those bodies involved in the early part of this programme, which resettled 1,000 refugees before Christmas 2015. But there is a long way to go.

The programme can only succeed and deliver value for money long-term if the Government is properly able to evaluate its success and adjust its provisions accordingly.

It must set out detailed plans for this now or risk failing those refugees it is intended to support, as well as undermining public perceptions of the programme’s benefits."

Report summary

The Syrian Vulnerable Persons Resettlement programme has performed well so far, providing support to some of the most vulnerable Syrian refugees. We commend the Home Office (the Department) and the other government departments, local authorities and delivery partners involved for their efforts and their achievements so far.

After a concerted effort to resettle 1,000 refugees before Christmas 2015, the programme team sensibly took a step back in early 2016 to redesign a more sustainable programme. However, meeting the overall target, to resettle 20,000 of the most vulnerable Syrian refugees in the UK by May 2020, remains a significant challenge.

Local authorities' participation in the programme is voluntary and the success of the programme will depend on their statements of good intention translating into firm offers of places.

Progress encouraging but issues remain that need addressing

The number of refugees in the programme is small compared to the total number of people local authorities support. But some local authorities are confused about what exactly it is they are expected to provide to refugees and have also expressed concerns about what programme funds will cover and what they will need to pay for out of their other budgets.

Some refugees are uncertain about what they are entitled to, and what is expected of them, as part of the programme. It is not yet clear whether survivors of torture or violence are getting the specialist help they need to be able to come to terms with their experiences.

While progress so far is certainly encouraging, it is essential that these issues are addressed to ensure the success of the programme in the long-term.

Further information

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