Cornwall is set to receive unaccompanied asylum seeking children

Unaccompanied asylum seeking children and refugees in general have rarely been out of the news. Following the Government’s recent change in position on whether England will receive unaccompanied asylum seeking children and the amendment to the Immigration Act. A lot of work has been happening within Children’s Services and the Council on unaccompanied asylum seeking children and the amendment to the Immigration Act.

This is because the Government has agreed to resettle unaccompanied child refugees who are currently in Europe or the UK. Many will be transferred from other local authorities. The Government said it would consult with local authorities before specifying the number of children it will seek to resettle from within the UK and Europe.  The proposals have moved on since the last Council statement on this important matter, with regions working together under the oversight of the Home Office and Department for Education to determine the best way of providing this humanitarian aid across local authorities.

Cornwall has deep empathy for unaccompanied children fleeing from the humanitarian disaster in their country of origin and is fully committed to doing everything it can within the resources available to play its part in providing care and support.

Cornwall Council have been informed that the main countries of origin a for unaccompanied asylum seeking children is currently, Albania, Eritrea, Afghanistan and Arab countries in the Middle East and North Africa affected by war.  Nearly three quarters of these children are male and have been ‘age-assessed’ as 16-17 years old.

Cornwall has already supported younger children, within the families resettled in Cornwall, through the existing Syrian Refugee Resettlement Scheme. We are also committed to providing support to unaccompanied asylum seeking children and are already talking to foster carers and supported lodgings providers to make sure we are ready if/when we are asked to provide help.  It is crucial for the welfare and wellbeing of these children that local authorities are well prepared for them, including the ability to respond to emotional wellbeing and mental health issues arising from trauma.  It is also important that known risks, such as child trafficking, modern slavery and radicalisation are also understood and carefully considered if we are to keep these young people safe and well in Cornwall.

Most importantly, it is crucial for the wellbeing of these children that their individual needs and wishes are taken into account when sending them to be supported and cared for in different parts of the country.  It is important that their views and wishes are taken into account when identifying where they live. Many already have family and friends in the UK and would prefer to be near them or at least to established communities that share their language, heritage and culture.  The ability to provide things like interpreters, opportunities for religious observance and special diet are crucial to getting this right for them.  This will be a fundamental factor in accepting children to Cornwall, which does not have the level of experience or facilities more readily available in more multi-cultural areas of the country.

However, Cornwall has a good track record of making people from different backgrounds welcome and this is no different.  We will be working with health partners and schools to make sure that we work together to meet the needs of these children.  In the first instance Cornwall is on the Regional Rota to receive young people aged 16-17 years, who represent the majority of children seeking asylum in the UK.

The allocation of unaccompanied asylum seeking children to local authorities has been made on the basis of the child population of each local authority area alone.  On this basis the view of Government is that Cornwall should take 73 children in the first phase, over the next two years.  Whilst this approach does not take into account the different resources available to local authorities to care for the children, we at the Council do everything we can to manage within the resources available to us and to mitigate the impact on the capacity of our children’s services. Additional Government funding for the accommodation costs does not cover the full cost of providing care and support for these young people

I am confident that the residents of Cornwall will come together to welcome and care for unaccompanied asylum seeking children.

If you want to help and would be interested in providing foster placements or supported lodgings for unaccompanied asylum seeking children, please get in touch with our Recruitment Team. It is important to note that a fostering assessment can take 4-6 months. The assessment to be a supported lodgings provider for older children 16-17 is shorter.   Please contact the team by email: fostering@cornwall.gov.uk or phone: 01872 323638.

 

Cornwall Council’s current position on unaccompanied child refugees

On the 4th of May the Government agreed to resettle unaccompanied child refugees who are currently in Europe to the UK. The Minister for Immigration has confirmed that the Government will consult with local authorities in due course before specifying the number of children it will seek to resettle from within Europe.

Cornwall Council is committed to providing support to unaccompanied child refugees and has already supported accompanied children as part of existing Syrian refugee resettlement scheme. We are already talking to foster carers and supported lodgings providers to make sure we are ready if/when we are asked.

It is important that the views and wishes of the children and young people are taken into account when allocating them to local authority areas. Many already have family and friends in the UK and would prefer to be near them or to communities that share their language, heritage and culture. However, Cornwall has a good track record of making people from different backgrounds welcome and this is no different.

Cornwall Council hopes that the Government takes into account the resources available to local authorities when allocating children. We will need a little time to match these children carefully to experienced foster carers who are skilled in caring for children who have experienced trauma, separation and loss.

Therefore, Cornwall Council welcomes expressions of interest from the public in providing foster placements and would ask them to get in touch with our foster carer recruitment team. It is important to note that a fostering assessment can take 4-6 months. Please contact the team by email fostering@cornwall.gov.uk  or by phone 01872 323638.

 

Cornwall has officially offered resettlement places to Syrian refugees

The Leader of Cornwall Council, John Pollard, has today confirmed that Cornwall has now officially offered resettlement to Syrian families travelling to the UK under the Government’s Syrian Vulnerable Persons Relocation Scheme.

As part of a five-year resettlement programme, an initial two or three families could be resettled in Cornwall as early as March.

There is a multi-agency partnership which is supported by the Home Office, has been working together to prepare for Syrian refugee families being resettled in Cornwall. The partnership consists of Cornwall Council – including housing, education, adults, children’s, and localism services, Cornwall Housing, NHS Kernow, Job Centre Plus, Inclusion Cornwall, Devon and Cornwall Police, CSW Group Limited and community and faith representatives.

The refugees who will be resettled in the UK through the Government scheme will be given a full medical check-up and security vetting before they arrive in the country. They will be flown directly from countries neighbouring Syria to England and those families that come to Cornwall will be met by representatives of the Cornwall Refugee Partnership and taken to their new homes.

It is important to protect their privacy therefore, the partnership will not be in a position to provide any details about Syrian families resettled in Cornwall. The Council has confirmed they will be housed in temporary private sector housing.

For more information on Cornwall’s response to the refugee crisis, including how you can help, visit www.cornwall.gov.uk/syrianrefugees

Porthleven delivers a fantastic benefit concert in aid of Syrian refugees

In a short space of time, a benefit concert in aid of the Syrian crisis was thought of, organised and delivered. Residents of both Porthleven and Cornwall, businesses and organisations, including the town council, rallied to make this event happen.

However, two people should be singled out for the most credit in getting this from an idea to reality. The two are, Alec Short and Kelvin Batt. For those who do not know, they are also the people behind the Masked Ball events. These two individuals were the driving force behind the event, and without them, this event really would not have happened.

The refugee benefit concert was held on Saturday on the Moors, Porthleven It all kicked off at midday and finished promptly at 11pm. The event was a sell-out and was very much family event. For £10, you got to see and listen to 14 bands, with entertainment provided by Swamp Circus for the younger audience.

The entrance to the event

The entrance to the event

IMG_7421

IMG_7434

The feedback from the event was all positive, and there are even calls for more events like this in Porthleven. Even the weather Gods delivered too, with an almost clear and sunny day and warm evening.

This event was not about having a good time, as the event was about raising money for those in need in Syria. Porthleven has a good record for helping those in need. Not only on its own doorstep, like in the case of the storms of two years ago, but for other causes too.

IMG_7433

So it was again to see Porthleven rise to the challenge and raise nearly £7000 (final total not confirmed) in 11 hours. A truly staggering achievement and amount in anyones book. This money will be donated to Save the Children Syrian appeal. A very worthy cause.

As I said in the opening paragraph, on thanking both Al and Kelvin, a huge thank you should go to all who helped by giving up their time to help during the event, those who donated equipment and services, the bands and entertainers, and lastly, everyone who turned up to make this a day to remember.

Porthleven can be proud it has done its bit in helping those caught-up with the crisis in Syria.

Porthleven doing its bit to help with the Refugee Crisis in Syria

Porthleven has a great community and is a great place to live and visit. Porthleven has many community led events and includes the Porthleven Food and Music Festival – which attracted 20,000 visitors to the event this year. Torchlight Procession, that had over a 1000 people taking part this year, and then there is the old favourite of Porthleven RNLI Day. I should also mention events like the pram and raft races.

In times of need, Porthleven rallies. As was shown when Porthleven was battered by at least 13 storms back in 2013. The storms breached the inner harbour, boats were sunk and damaged. From this devastation various events fund raising event were held resulting in a short space of time the community raised over £10,000 for the fishing community.

With the media coverage it would be hard not to be aware of the current Refugee Crisis that is engulfing so much of Europe. However, the real crisis is not those who have made the difficult journey to Europe, but those millions still stuck on the borders of Syria in make-shift camps and others trapped with little chance of escape from worn-torn Syria.

Porthleven with its great community spirit is the ideal place to hold a fundraiser for those affected. From this, the organisers behind the Masked Ball are putting on a Refugee Benefit Concert this Saturday on 26th September from 12-noon on the Moors playing field (bottom park).

The events official website say:

The Long Road benefit concert is to raise funds for the refugee crisis stemming from Syria. The money raised will go to Save the Children to help the crisis at source.

The idea was brought to life by a local concert promoter after witnessing the harrowing images spread across the global media these last few weeks. We decided to pool our own resources and contacts with the best event contractors in the South West to stage this fantastic concert at very short notice. Tickets are limited and expect to sell out very quick…

Many organisation have rallied to give support, including the town council who gave permission for the Moors to be used. Nearly all the ticket have been sold. However, there are still  a few tickets available and can be accessed HERE on the Longroad website. The cost is £10 with a £1.25 handling/payment fee.

As you can see from the official poster below, the line-up for the day is impressive, and I am told all the bands and Cornish comedian Kernow King are giving their time for free.

Longroad

I would urge people to come along, listen to some great bands and do their bit for a great cause all for £11.25.

The Refugee Crisis, Cornwall Council, and the role of the Local Authority.

The media has shown us the tragic plight of so many people who are fleeing several war-torn countries; not for economic reasons, but because they fear for their lives. There has been an outcry from so many people that we as a nation should do more to help those in need.

However, there is so much misinformation circulating about refugees and asylum seekers in the media that it is sometimes hard to work out what is reality and what is myth. Hopefully, this blog and the links contained will help see what is fact or fiction.

The Governments official position is the Prime Minister announced on the 7th September that Britain should resettle up to 20,000 Syrian refugees over the rest of the Parliament. These refugees will be taken from the camps in the countries neighbouring Syria using the established UNHCR process for identifying and resettling refugees. The Prime Minister also announced that the criteria for the existing Syrian Vulnerable Persons Relocation scheme will be expanded. The latter was expanded from the 1st August 2015.

At present, there are no further details or plans on how the Government is going to implement their aims to resettle the small number of Syrian refugees it has committed to. However, there is a scheme already in place. The current scheme called the Gateway Protection Programme  and offers a legal route for up to 750 refugees to settle in the UK each year, and is completely separate from the standard procedure for claiming asylum in the UK.

Refugees will be granted a five-year humanitarian protection visa. This will entitle them to access to public funds, access to the labour market and the possibility of a family reunion. The Government has also said the cost of supporting a refugee will be met from the Governments foreign aid budget for the first year. No other details have been made public on funding for future years.

The role of a Local Authority will be key in any resettlement. Members of Cornwall Council, and the public want Cornwall to do its bit. I agree, we should do our bit, but I agree with the Leader of Cornwall Council when we should only offer help that we can actually deliver.

So what is Cornwall Council doing? The Council is keeping in close contact with the Local Government Association (LGA). Furthermore, the Council is pressing Government officials for the details of any refugees who will seek respite here in the far South West.

The Council is also coordinating its departments like Adult and Children’s Services, support services and housing in case they are called upon by the Government.

A dedicated webpage has been created who people can find more information on this crisis, which will also signpost the work being undertaken by national and local organisations. This will avoid duplication. This can be found HERE

The Council has been approached by residents offering accommodation like spare rooms. This is a kind gesture, but, why can’t this same offer be made to the homeless?? I am sorry I have to say this, but it does need to be highlighted. Saying that, if someone wants to offer accommodation to refugees, they can register their offer on the new webpage or email: refugeehelp@cornwall.gov.uk

In summary, the Council, like so many other local authorities, are waiting on the Government to act. And the Government needs to act before it is too late.

 

Leader of Cornwall Council issues a statement on the refugee crisis

You cannot watch the news, read the printed, or online media not to see the human tragedy that is the refugee crisis which includes several – war-torn – countries. The Leader of Cornwall Council, Cllr John Pollard has issued a statement as follows:

No-one can fail to have been affected by the scenes we have all witnessed as the refugee crisis has developed over recent days.

Cornwall has a proud record of being welcoming and inclusive and we will play our part in doing whatever we can to help these vulnerable people.  I have asked officers to investigate exactly what support can be available and how we can best work with the government.”

I am not sure what support can be given, but it is good that the Council is investigating its options. Though much will depend on what action the Government takes; including the numbers the Government decides to accommodate.