East of England needs fairer funding and better communication from Government to welcome Afghans fleeing conflict
The chair of the East of England Local Government Association (EELGA) has asked the Home Office for better investment and communication to help continue the region’s important work finding homes for families fleeing conflict in Afghanistan.
The region has warmly welcomed and offered homes for more than 700 people from the war-torn country already, recent evacuees who have stood for democracy and worked alongside the British military and UK Government, and now find themselves at risk of harm.
However, the EELGA, which represents 50 local authorities across the East, argues that the region has faced a struggle securing fair and sustainable funding to continue this crucial work.
The government has committed to supporting further cohorts of people to enter the UK from Afghanistan over the next few years, so it is essential that the appropriate levels of infrastructure and funding are in place for the medium term.
Linda Haysey, Chair of EELGA, has written to Victoria Atkins MP, Minister for Afghan Resettlement, outlining the positive response from the councils across the region, and calling for better communication between the government and local authorities.
Cllr Haysey said: “The East of England has warmly welcomed over 1,000 people from Afghanistan into the region’s hotels and has provided permanent accommodation for more than 400 people with further offers to come.
“The Region is committed to supporting newly arrived Afghans to rebuild their lives, to find work and education, and to become part of their local community.
“However, councils in the East of England continue to experience some key difficulties in relation to this Government resettlement scheme, which need further attention and resolution.
“We are raising a number of issues with the Minister for Afghan Resettlement and the Home Office with the aim of improving communication between central and local government and coordination of support on the ground’
Through the East of England Strategic Migration Partnership (SMP), the region has recently offered further properties for the Afghan resettlement schemes which are now under consideration by the Home Office.
As a region, the East of England is uniquely placed to support families to integrate, as its SMP has a wealth of experience delivering the well-being and work for refugee integration project, part funded by the Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund (AMIF).
Among the issues raised with the Home Office is the use and location of bridging temporary hotel accommodation, particularly how far some of these hotels are from vital services and amenities.
EELGA urges the Home Office to improve communication and engagement with local authorities so they can better coordinate wrap around support. There is a pressing need to move these Afghans into longer term properties offered by the region so that they can begin to integrate into local communities as soon possible.
Another key issue is the funding challenge faced by local authorities.
Local authorities have welcomed the Home Office’s additional housing support funding for larger properties for up to three years from the tenancy start date but were “extremely disappointed” the funding is not available to house families arriving in the UK after the evacuation which concluded on August 31.
Furthermore, an improved funding package for councils to support Afghans for three years will only be granted for households resettled in local authorities after the September 1. Families resettled in local authorities before this date will remain on the original one-year funding package.
The SMP has made the case that local authorities who were quick to respond to the Government’s call for properties should not be disadvantaged in this way.
For more information about the work of the SMP visit: Home – EELGA SMP