Sixty-one Community Sponsorship groups, Lead Sponsors and other organisations who support the CS movement, have signed an open letter to Priti Patel in response to the New Immigration Plan consultation.
This letter was written by the Community Sponsorship Council, of which Sponsor Refugees is a member. The Council is a forum for partnership work with those committed to the principles of Community Sponsorship and to serve and grow the Community Sponsorship movement.
The letter was written in response to listening to stakeholders across the Community Sponsorship movement and the wider refugee sector.
Hannah Feldman published Sponsor Refugees Shortlisted for International Prize in News 2021-02-08 12:46:14 +0000
We are thrilled to announce that Sponsor Refugees has been shortlisted for the 2021 Ockenden Prize.
Ten charities deployed in nine countries have been shortlisted for the 2021 Ockenden International Prizes, which reward outstanding projects that promote self-reliance among refugees and/or displaced people.
The shortlist of ten projects was chosen from 146 entries across 43 countries. We are humbled to be among such effective organisations. Next month, judges will select four overall winners, who will receive £25,000 cash prize, to support their work.
Whether or not we are chosen among the four winners, being shortlisted for this prestigious award is a fantastic achievement for the whole Community Sponsorship movement. It recognises the efforts of communities across the UK who have worked tirelessly to develop a strong and thriving scheme.Read more
Hannah Feldman published Submit Your Application in Steps to Sponsoring a Refugee Family 2019-03-13 14:37:53 +0000
When you are ready, you will need to submit an application to the Home Office. You will need to include:
- Completed Application Form (see guidance on how to complete it here)
- Your Safeguarding Policy
- A Complaints Policy
- Evidence to show that £9,000 has been ringfenced to support a resettled family (e.g. a letter from your Lead Sponsor’s Finance Manager)
- A letter of consent from the appropriate local authority
- Details of the accommodation * (for your final application)
- Any additional appendices to support your application (for example: Information Folder; Benefits Calculations, Photos/Floor Plans of the property). This is not necessary, but may help to strengthen your application.
Can we apply before we have a property or funds?*
Since it can take several months from submitting your application to the family’s arrival (see below), it would be expensive to keep a property free during this period. You can, therefore, submit your application before you secure housing, and receive “Approval in Principle”. Once you secure a house, you can update your application with the relevant information.
You can also submit an application before you have raised £9,000, again receiving “approval in principle”.
What happens next?
Once you submit your application, a Home Office team will review it. They may send it back with some amendments – don’t be disheartened if they do this – it’s very common!
Once they are satisfied, they will arrange a “Pre-Approval Visit” with a Home Office representative, a few members of your group, and the Local Authority. The Home Office reps will go through your resettlement plan - they provide advice and may ask to clarify some points. There is no need to worry – these are usually very warm, positive and useful meetings – they are not trying to “catch you out”.
After this visit, you may be asked to make a few more amendments. The Home Office will then make a final decision (more information about what they consider, and what happens if you are unsuccessful here)
How long does it take from application to the family’s arrival?
The Home Office have advised that it takes on average 6 months from application to the family’s arrival.
Step One You send application to the Home Office. Full review by panel – up to 19 working days.
Step Two You book and hold a Pre-approval meeting with your Core Group members, your Local Authority and two Home Office representatives. The time this takes depends on everyone’s availability.
Step Three Following the meeting, you will be asked to make any final amendments to your form. The Home Office then have up to 6 working days to make a decision.
Step Four You are matched with a family within 5 working days of approval granted.
Step Five Family arrive 6-8 weeks later
But doesn’t that mean we will have to pay for an empty property for weeks?
The Home Office will pay for up to eight weeks in “void costs” while you are waiting for a family to arrive. More information here
What happens once we are approved?
The Home Office will ask you to:
- Complete a Property Offer Form (see example here) This will help the Home Office to match an appropriate family
- Sign an agreement
- Some members of your group (3-4 recommended) must attend a one-day training delivered by Reset. This will cover a range of topics including cultural awareness, understanding boundaries, safeguarding and preparing for arrivals
- Match with a family (see below)
How does the matching process work?
This document explains how people are selected for resettlement.
The Home Office will propose a family based on the information you provide on the Property Offer Form. You will be told sensitive information about the family, such as medical needs and relevant history. Since it is confidential, this information must be accessed on a secure computer server (often your Local Authority will allow you to use their secure office computers). Both your group and your Local Authority must decide whether you can adequately support the family and their needs. You must consider this carefully – it is perfectly ok to decide that you do not have the capacity or expertise to support specific needs. In such circumstances, the family will still be resettled elsewhere in the UK.
Hannah Feldman published Prepare a Welcome Pack in Steps to Sponsoring a Refugee Family 2019-03-13 14:33:28 +0000
You should provide an Information Folder and Welcome Pack for the family, with important information about their new community.
What information should I include?
Families are likely to be overwhelmed by information when they first arrive, and a lot of information will be learnt over time. However, it is helpful to have some information written down for reference. You may want to include (this is not a prescriptive list):
- Photos, a welcome message and contact details of your group
- Your group charter
- A brief introduction to the neighbourhood
- Instructions for the house (e.g. when to put bins out, how to change heating, who to contact for repairs, etc.)
- Emergency Services
- Maps of the local area (with key amenities, such as supermarkets, pharmacies, parks, etc.)
- Transport timetables
- Complaints Form and Procedures.
What goods should we provide?
You may want to provide some initial groceries and amenities for when the family arrives. Here are some things to consider:
- £200-300. This is a mandatory requirement of the Home Office. It is to support the family while they are waiting for their first benefits payments. We recommend providing this in the same increments they would receive benefits, rather than one lump sum, to help them to budget and manage expectations.
- Enough copies of house keys for each adult
- Pre-Paid Travel Card
- Sim Card (people will be keen to contact their family as soon as they arrive in the UK, to let them know they are safe)
- Groceries and Toiletries for first two weeks (Download a list of typical Syrian groceries, with Arabic translation)
- Warm clothes if arriving in winter, and/or vouchers to buy their own
- A laptop or tablet. This would help to keep in touch with family, to apply for benefits, to search for jobs, and to access online English modules, etc. (A tablet may be easier for the family to use at first, as they can more easily switch between an Arabic and Roman alphabet).
One of the most important priorities for a refugee family in settling into their new community will be learning English. And a major task for a sponsorship group is to arrange both formal and informal English language learning for all members of the family.
To meet the requirements of the Home Office for ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages) you will need:
- Suitably qualified ESOL tutors willing to provide 8 hours per week of English language tuition for up to 12 months
- This teaching leading to formal English language qualifications
- Opportunities for the refugee family to learn English through informal means such as conversation sessions
You may find that ESOL provision in your area is unsuitable or unavailable. This was the experience of Croeso Abergwan, a sponsorship group based in rural Pembrokeshire, Wales. But they rose to the challenge and developed their own ‘Community ESOL’ approach. Their ESOL team members have written a guide to their methods, which you can Download Here.
You must provide interpreting services as required for 12 months from arrival. In the first 2-3 weeks you will likely need interpreters to be on hand full time.
The majority, though not all, families who arrive through Community Sponsorhsip, are from Syria, and speak Arabic. However, some families speak another language, such as Kurdish or Farsi. You will be asked which languages you can provide for in the Home Office application, and matched with a family accordingly.
- Finding volunteer interpreters. Mosques and local groups may know members of your community who are willing to act as Arabic interpreters.
- Using available interpreters. Services like Job Centres and the NHS have interpreters but may need advance notice to provide them at appointments.
- Paying for professional interpreters.
Hannah Feldman published Find a House in Steps to Sponsoring a Refugee Family 2019-03-13 14:31:44 +0000
Find out the Local Housing Allowance Rates for your area. Note that this will be impacted by the benefits cap
Download this template brief, that explains what you are looking for. This can be sent to groups such as Housing Associations, Landlords and Letting Agents.
How to Fit a Douche – It is likely that a Middle Eastern family will expect a douche spray by the toilet. These instructions show how to fit a spray without breaking the budget, or the pipes (Thanks to Raynes Park Community Sponsorship group for sharing!).
Information about Void Costs - the Home Office can cover up to 8 weeks in "void costs" while a property remains empty.
For many groups, this is a biggest challenge. Your sponsoring group will need suitable, safe and affordable housing for a refugee family. Rightly, you aren’t allowed to put the family up in your own home, even temporarily. You must find them a place of their own from Day One.
To meet the requirements of the Home Office the home will need:
- A minimum two-year lease (ideally with the possibility to extend, should the family wish)
- Its own front door
- To meet environmental standards and be properly maintained
- To be furnished and have all the usual amenities
- The rent should not exceed Local Housing Allowance rates so that the housing benefits the refugee family will receive will cover the rent
- You will have to top-up the rent out of the sponsoring group’s fund
Challenges and Opportunities
Community Sponsorship is an unusual situation - you don't yet know who the tenants will be, or when they will arrive. When they do arrive, they will be - at least initially - reliant on benefits.
For these reasons, you will need to find and develop a good relationship with an understanding and philanthropic landlord. They need to be flexible and place a large amount of trust in you.
Thankfully, scores of incredible landlords have been motivated to rent their property to a resettled family.
You could offer the following to landlords:
- Guaranteed rental income for at least two years, with a registered charity as guarantor
- Free cosmetic improvements to the house (you're sure to find willing volunteers to paint, garden, and put up shelves - and you could seek donations from local hardware stores)
- A support network for the family, to help them manage finances and house maintenance
- The knowledge that you are changing the lives of a vulnerable refugee family
Ideas for Finding a House
Leaflets: Herne Hill Welcomes Refugees held a week-long leaflet drive. They distributed 7,000 leaflets through letterboxes and on community and cafe noticeboards. They found three houses this way, and were able to pass two onto other local groups! Other groups have since followed their lead, with equal success.
Housing Associations: Groups have received great support from Housing Associations. Although much of their stock is allocated to council housing, they sometimes have private developments that they can offer. One group were even offered a house in the very centre of London! It is best to contact as high as possible (CEO/Trustees) as ultimately the decision would lie with them - you don't want to be blocked before you reach them. We have contacts who may be able to help you connect - get in touch at [email protected]
Letting Agents: If you develop a good relationship with letting agents, and provide a briefing of what you are looking for, they can speak to potential landlords on their books. Several groups have found housing this way.
Conversely, it may be more helpful to go around Letting Agents, who have strict procedures and systems, and reach out directly to landlords. OpenRent is one such platform that allow you to contact a landlord directly.
Religious Organisations: Reach out to all the religious institutions in your area. We've had families housed in Salvation Army properties - The Church of England have a large portfolio of properties across the UK - a Methodist church in Birmingham offered students accommodation in their ownership - A London Synagogue refurbished their caretakers home which was no longer in use - The first sponsored family was even housed by Archbishop of Canterbury in Lambeth Palace!
Speak at Congregations: While reaching out to institutions, also ask if you can make a short announcement to their congregation (e.g. Friday prayers at mosque, Shabbat morning at synagogue, a Sunday church service). This is a great place to reach large numbers of local people, who very often are socially minded. Who knows, you may find some willing donors and volunteers at the same time!
Buy a house: This is the big one! Of course, this can take a lot of time, fundraising, and responsibility - but it is an excellent way to provide long-term sustainable solution, and can be a great investment. It could be a one very large donation (one group received a legacy for the purpose), a few wealthy philanthropists, or a whole community of smaller investors - develop a trust and ensure that there are clear guidelines for how repayments would work/the charitable purposes of the property. We can put you in touch with a group that has taken this approach, to receive advice.
When should we look for a house?
It can take several weeks from submitting your application to the family’s arrival. It could be very expensive to keep a property free during this period. You can, however, submit your application before you secure housing (if your Local Authority consents), and receive “Approval in Principle”. Once you secure a house, you will need to get approval from the Local Authority, and update your application with the relevant information.
Once you are matched with a family, it takes a further 6-8 weeks for them to arrive. The Home Office will cover 8 weeks in "Void Costs" while the house remains empty during this period. Read more here.
Contact [email protected] for advice and support.
Hannah Feldman published Fundraise in Steps to Sponsoring a Refugee Family 2019-03-13 14:31:11 +0000
WHAT SUPPORT CAN WE OFFER?
Support with funds
If funds are an issue, but your group could otherwise take on the commitments of being a sponsor, Sponsor Refugees may be able to help. We could link you to people or groups who can’t give the time to sponsoring, but could help financially. Contact [email protected]
Intermediate support while setting up a bank account
You may want to start fundraising immediately, but do not yet have a dedicated bank account. To help you get started, you can fundraise through our on-line page. We can ringfence your funds and transfer them to you as soon as you have a bank account. Contact us to arrange this.
The government requires you to show that you have £9,000 in a ringfenced account. It may be that once you budget, you feel you will need more money than that – in London, we recommend that you aim for £12,000 due to the high costs of living.
We recommend that fundraising is an early task, because organising fundraising events and activities is a great way for your group to bond. There are many ways of raising funds these days and most sponsoring groups enjoy the process.
Hannah Feldman published Build A Group in Steps to Sponsoring a Refugee Family 2019-03-13 14:30:40 +0000
WHAT SUPPORT CAN WE OFFER?
Training and Tools to Strengthen Your Group
At Citizens UK, we have 30 years of experience in building strong institutions. We can share our tools and experience to help you build a strong sponsorship group.
Speakers at Events
We can provide speakers and resources for recruitment events.
Community Sponsorship cannot be done alone. You will need a group of committed, locally-based people, ready to take up the challenge.
How many people do we need?
There is no “perfect” group size. This depends on the time and commitment of volunteers.
On average, groups have a dedicated “core team” of 8-12 people, with support from a wider network who help with fundraising, communications, leafletting, house preparations, etc.
What roles and subgroups should we have?
An example of roles includes (this is not meant as a prescriptive list):
Chair: Set agendas and lead group meetings. Hold people to account for actions. Oversee all activities. Represent the group externally.
Treasurer: Manage group finances. Set a budget. Establish and manage a group bank account.
Welcome Team Coordinator: Recruit and coordinate a team of volunteers who will support family. Organise training and schedules.
Welcome Team: A group of volunteers who welcome the family and help them to achieve their goals and become self-sufficient. Support the family to register and access local services, use public transport, go on day-trips, and join local clubs or faith institutions.
Safeguarding Team: Write safeguarding policy and procedures. Manage DBS checks and deliver safeguarding training for the Welcome Team. Respond to safeguarding issues.
Fundraising and Communications Team: Organise fundraising activities to reach £9,000 target. Run social media accounts and website. Design and distribute leaflets and posters. Speak to local press.
Interpreters: Translate the Welcome Pack and any other documents. Interpret for the family at key moments (e.g. at the airport, Job Centre appointments, counselling sessions, etc).
English Language (ESOL) Team: Provide English language classes and conversational English practice.
Education and Employment Team: Support school registration. Help the family to access relevant training. Support them to find work.
Benefits and Finance Team: Support the family to apply for benefits and accompany them to their first Job Centre appointments. Help them to budget. Advocate for the family if there are problems with benefits payments.
Accommodation Team: Find and furnish a house. Organise utilities. Main contact with landlord.
How do I reach more people?
Don’t worry if you start off small. We have seen groups that began with 3 people and quickly grew to over 100!
Putting leaflets through doors, having a stall at your local market or fete, speaking to local press, and using social media are all great ways to reach new people. We also recommend partnering with local faith and community groups, who will have a pool of willing, local people.
Holding a public launch is another great way to get people involved. We can help by inviting speakers to your event who have, or have been, welcomed through community sponsorship. Contact [email protected] to organise this.
Hannah Feldman published Link with your Local Authority in Steps to Sponsoring a Refugee Family 2019-03-13 14:30:12 +0000
WHAT SUPPORT CAN WE OFFER?
Contact us if you experience difficulties in getting LA consent: [email protected]. We have successfully supported groups to win over sceptical councils and can help to advocate for your group.
We can also share an example of a LA letter of consent upon request.
As part of your application, you will need to get consent from your Local Authority (LA). If the family will live in a different local authority to your own, it is the LA where the family will be living that must provide consent. It is easy to understand why - they will be providing many services, such as schools, healthcare and safeguarding. In the very unlikely event that your sponsorship breaks down, they will have the responsibility to step in.
The Local Authority should:
- Provide a letter of consent
- Attend a Pre-Approval Visit with your group and the Home Office
- Confirm that the accommodation you are providing is suitable (the Home Office will provide a form for this purpose)
- Put you in contact with their Safeguarding team
Your council will be taking on a big risk by giving consent – so be sure to demonstrate that you are a strong, committed, experienced group, that fully understands the responsibility you are taking on. If you experience difficulties in getting LA consent, contact us, and we can help to advocate on your behalf.
Hannah Feldman published Become or Partner With a Charity in Steps to Sponsoring a Refugee Family 2019-03-13 14:29:43 +0000
A key requirement for a Community Sponsorship (CS) group to be accepted as a sponsor by the Home Office is that you are:
- Already a registered charity or community interest company (CIC) or
- You become a registered charity or CIC or
- You link up with an existing registered charity or CIC which will act as their ‘Lead Sponsor’
This requirement reflects the fact that CS is a significant commitment for a volunteer community group and the Home Office wants to be sure that every group is able to fulfil its responsibilities to the refugee family.
Establishing a Charity or CIC
Establishing your group as a registered charity or CIC requires a lot of time, paperwork and annual reporting. This is only worth doing if,
- You want to operate with full independence
- You intend to welcome multiple families
- You aspire to become a hub for Community Sponsorship in your area
If you decide to take this step, we are to connect you with other CS groups who have completed the process for advice. Contact [email protected].
Partnering with an Existing Charity or CIC
Sponsor Refugees and Citizens UK acts as Lead Sponsor to a number of Community Sponsorship Groups. To discuss partnering with us, contact [email protected].
Alternatively, you can ask another established charity/CIC to be an umbrella charity for your group. Umbrella charities (or “Lead Sponsors”) could be a local faith group, school, Rotary Club, Mothers’ Union, Village Society, among others. The following organisations have extensive experience with CS and may be able to play this role:
Download our Introductory Guide for Lead Sponsors to understand the requirements of the role.
Hannah Feldman published Safeguarding in Steps to Sponsoring a Refugee Family 2019-03-13 14:26:56 +0000
Guidance on recording and storing information (source: NSPCC)
NSPCC Helpline: 0808 800 5000. You can call them whenever you need advice (this can be anonymous) or want to escalate a safeguarding concern.
HOW WE CAN SUPPORT YOU?
We are more than happy to arrange a phone call or visit to discuss your safeguarding plans. Get in touch at [email protected]
Your group will be working closely with a refugee family who have been prioritised for resettlement because of their vulnerability.
You will be helping them to achieve intimate tasks, such as setting up bank accounts, managing their finances, accessing healthcare, and achieving integration goals. You will therefore be in a position of great power and responsibility, with the potential to both cause or prevent harm. This relationship will also place you in a unique position to be able to spot and respond to potential harm and abuse caused by others.
For these reasons, it is vital that you develop a strong safeguarding framework, and that all family and group members are familiar with your procedures.
Adapting your support during Covid-19 Pandemic
We have developed some guidelines to adapting your support as you welcome a family during the Covid-19 pandemic.
As this pandemic has forced us to move our support and communication online, it's even more important to think about online safety. Here are some useful resources:
- Safeguarding and remote education during coronavirus (COVID-19) – UK Government
- Safeguarding during coronavirus: voluntary and community groups – NSPCC
- Safe remote learning – UK Safer Internet
Hannah Feldman published What is Community Sponsorship? in What Is Community Sponsorship 2019-02-22 13:19:30 +0000
Community Sponsorship gives power to local volunteer groups to resettle a refugee family in their neighbourhood. It is a big commitment, but hugely rewarding – and Sponsor Refugees is here to help every step of the way.
Groups need to:
- Find and furnish an affordable home for a refugee family for a period of 2 years
- Raise at least £9,000 (to cover various costs like translation, furnishing the house, and English classes)
- Welcome the family at the airport and settle them in their new community (helping them register for benefits, access health services and enroll children in schools)
- Provide support and encouragement to the family for one year so that they can live securely and independently
The scheme was launched by the British government in July 2016, at the height of the refugee crisis, in response to growing pressure from civil society. It was inspired by the successful Canadian private sponsorship model, which has seen over 300,000 refugees resettled since 1979.
What are the benefits of Community Sponsorship?
Community Sponsorship transforms the lives of both the family and volunteers. Find out what groups and families have said.
- It Is a practical way for local people to respond to the global refugee crisis
- It provides a safe and legal route for refugees to come to the UK
- It makes maximum use of the capacity, commitment and networks of citizens to help refugees
- It improves the chances of refugees to settle in, learn English and find work
- It strengthens community bonds
- It sends a strong message that refugees are welcome in the UK
Who can sponsor a family?
Everyone! There are more than 150 Community Sponsorship groups across the UK. Some are long-established groups, such as faith institutions, colleges or workplaces. Others began as a group of friends with a common interest. Some are groups of neighbours who had never met before but came together through their shared desire to transform the life of a vulnerable refugee family.
Who can be sponsored?
Click here to see the criteria of who can be resettled to the UK through community sponsorship
Sounds great! How do I get started?
Then contact us, and we will guide you through the process: [email protected].