Decision details

To accommodate in the range of 7 to 15 households across the borough from the British Forces Afghan Relocation and Assistance scheme during 2021/22

Decision Maker: Cabinet Member Housing

Decision status: Recommendations Approved

Is Key decision?: Yes

Is subject to call in?: Yes

Purpose:

This is an update to the commitment made in the Cabinet Member decision dated the 19th August 2021 which refers to accommodating 7 households through the scheme. However following positive interest from the private sector in Cheltenham, Cheltenham Borough Council feels able to increase this offer to enable more families fleeing Afghanistan to settle within the borough.

 

Four households have been rehoused in Cheltenham using 2 bed flats from Cheltenham Borough Council’s housing stock and the remaining properties will be sourced from the private rented sector.

 

It should be noted that some flexibility will be required on exact numbers but it is anticipated that this will be a minimum of 7 households and a maximum of 15 households, depending on the ongoing interest from the private rented sector. At present, we anticipate approximately 10 households will be provided accommodation within the borough as part of this initiative.

 

This will contribute to the countywide commitment to rehouse 35 households across Gloucestershire.

Reasons for the decision:

The UK has been running a scheme to support locally employed staff (LES) in Afghanistan, often in dangerous and challenging situations, in recognition of their commitment and bravery shown supporting UK forces since 2013.

 

The scheme supports current and former locally employed staff who have worked for the British Forces and provides a range of in-country packages of assistance in Afghanistan and, for those who meet the criteria, relocation to the UK with their dependants.

 

The Afghan Relocations and Assistance Policy which launched in April 2021, reflects the changing situation in Afghanistan and consequent risk to locally employed staff.

 

The majority of relocated households are now within the UK and are predominately residing in ‘bridging hotels’ whilst they wait for permanent offers of accommodation to be made across the UK.

 

The local authority is responsible for providing an Integration Support Package (there is a 12-month funding package available) for households arriving into the UK. This includes a package of advice and assistance covering employment, welfare benefits, housing, health, education and utility supply, Registration with GPs and local Job Centre Plus including receipt of a National Insurance Number.

 

Support is being provided to the families from GARAS (Gloucestershire Action for Refugees and Asylum seekers) who after consultation have confirmed that they can provide this level of support (not including accommodation) for the arriving families across Gloucestershire (GARAS currently provide this for families arriving as part of the refugee resettlement scheme and asylum dispersal scheme).

 

When initially considering how many households Cheltenham Borough Council can assist, consideration was given to the local need and demand for social housing across the borough and in particular the impact on homelessness that may arise as a result of using Cheltenham Borough Council’s social housing stock.

 

After consultation with Cheltenham Borough Homes, 4 properties have been utilised from our own stock (all 2 bedroom flats) and the remainder of the properties are being secured from the private rented sector. However following positive interest from the private sector in Cheltenham, Cheltenham Borough Council feels able to increase the initial offer made to accommodate up to 7 households across the borough to enable more households fleeing Afghanistan to settle within the borough in private rented accommodation.

 

It should be noted that some flexibility will be required on exact numbers but it is anticipated that the number of households to relocate to the borough will be a minimum of 7 households and a maximum of 15 households depending on the ongoing interest from the private rented sector.

 

This commitment will contribute to the countywide commitment to support up to/around 35 households through the scheme across Gloucestershire.

 

Alternative options considered:

An alternative option would be to not update our offer from our previous commitment of accommodating 7 households. However following positive interest from the private rented sector Cheltenham Borough Council feels able to increase this offer to utilise the offers of accommodation made to enable more families fleeing Afghanistan to settle within the borough.

 

The decision to not update our offer has also been rejected on the basis that Cheltenham has adopted the title of Town of Sanctuary, following the Council motion of 25th March 2019.

 

Reason Key: Affects more than 1 ward;

Other reasons / organisations consulted

Cheltenham Borough Homes Housing Options Service are supportive of the increase in numbers proposed (this service is responsible for administering initial enquiries from private landlords).

 

GARAS (Gloucestershire Action for Refugees and Asylum Seekers) have also confirmed they can provide the support required in the integration package such as providing advice and assistance covering employment, welfare benefits, housing, health, education and utility supply, registration with GPs and local Job Centre Plus including receipt of a National Insurance Number.

Contact: Caroline Sutcliffe 01242 264171 Email: caroline.sutcliffe@cheltenham.gov.uk.

Publication date: 30/11/2021

Date of decision: 29/11/2021

Effective from: 08/12/2021