Councillors to discuss support for Syrian refugees

Malvern Hills District Council has expressed its desire to look at ways to support Syrian refugees.

At a meeting of the Council in December 2014, members of all parties agreed unanimously to the council playing a part in national and international efforts to accept and resettle a small number of Syrian refugees, in partnership with partner organisations and community groups and as part of a wider South Worcestershire Plan.

Since then the council has been investigating the details of putting a formal resettlement package together and the positions of other key organisations -  such as Worcestershire County Council and Worcestershire's NHS - which would have to provide social care, healthcare and other support critical to caring properly for any refugees. The number of refugees the district could accept has never been agreed.

 The outcome of this investigatory work is set to be discussed, as planned, by councillors at a meeting on Tuesday 14 July and a decision made on whether or not to proceed with a formal bid to the Home Office to join the resettlement scheme.

However at a meeting of Worcestershire County Council's Cabinet on Thursday, 18 June it was decided it would not participate  in the scheme at the current time due to the financial risk it posed given government funding was limited to just one year. The decision was taken to monitor the situation and review if the funding situation changed.

The result of the decision by the county council and other critical partners not to participate will have a major influence on Malvern Hills District Council's decision to proceed with a resettlement scheme.

If councillors decided not to continue, other options could be considered to allow the community to support the plight of refugees from Syria. Councillors may also decide to keep the situation under review should the Home Office change its position on funding of the scheme.

Cllr Melanie Baker, portfolio holder for planning and housing on Malvern Hills District Council, said: " Clearly the matter is to be debated by Council but it is disappointing that a formal resettlement bid does not look like a viable option for Malvern Hills Council on its own, even with the strong support of volunteers and charitable groups.

"We remain keen to play a role in supporting refugee families as part of the nation's response to the suffering and trauma of those affected by the conflict in Syria.

 "However we have always been clear that we could only do so with the full and active involvement of our partners as part of a joined up South Worcestershire plan. We alone cannot provide the full range of support – such as education, mental health care, social care etc – which those seeking sanctuary here require.

 "As our partners are unable to provide this support, it will be regrettable if we are no longer able to continue along this path. We remain sympathetic to the plight of refugees in Syria and are willing to consider other opportunities to support them where we can."