London has so much to offer: a proud history of welcoming refugees and migrants from all over the world; hundreds of community organisations and specialist services with a wealth of expertise in supporting refugees; a strong economy with unrivalled employment opportunities; and so many individuals, communities and businesses who want to help. London Councils is keen to work with partners to help create a model of Community Sponsorship that works for the capital that recognises some of the key barriers to participation.
In July 2016 Government launched the Community Sponsorship Scheme. This is meant to enable community groups to become directly involved in supporting the resettlement of Syrian Refugees. To be full sponsors, a community group must have the backing of the local authority, and be able to support an allocated family for one year and house them for two years. The scheme was launched in Lambeth Palace where a family have been resettled under the scheme.
Funding was recently agreed for a Syrian Resttlement Coordinator for London. This coordinator will work closely with the boroughs to map the potential of Community Sponsorship to unlock support for refugees locally, and will seek to address some of the challenge around the scheme that might prevent participation.
There is a potential high financial burden to Community Sponsorship which is difficult for community groups to fulfil, many of whom receive funding from the local authority. It will take time to build capacity and experience across the Voluntary and Community Sector.
Community Sponsorship is not an alternative to Government supported schemes of resettlement, and it is important that the scheme complements existing provision to bring the right partners together locally.