A guide to what to discuss with a family, in preparation for moving
One of your requirements as a Community Sponsorship group is to source sustainable housing for a refugee family for a two-year period, after which they may need to move to a new home. Even if the family you support is able to stay in their property indefinitely, it’s important they are empowered with the tools to source new housing before your formal one-year support ends.
Over the course of your year of support, the family will have strengthened their English skills and their ability to navigate different systems in the UK. Finding a new home to rent will be another challenge that they’ll need to navigate but in helping the family to plan ahead and manage their expectations, you can make this a smoother process. This resource covers ways to empower the family you support to find and move to new accommodation.
Moving to a new home is a lengthy and expensive process so addressing the topic of housing is not a conversation to have in month 22 but something to build up to from the family’s arrival and plan over the course of your year of support. Setting milestones relating to housing will help them prepare for a future where they need to navigate paying
rent, communicating with their landlord and finding a new home with limited or no support from your group members.
It’s important to keep in mind that success in Community Sponsorship is when the family you support is able to manage their responsibilities on their own, which is why it’s important to have an empowerment approach to housing provision. Below is an example of how you can set goals in relation to housing so that when the family must prepare to find a new home, their responsibilities will not come as a shock.
- Sign or transfer the tenancy agreement and discuss how rent is paid.
- Introduction to landlord.
- Discuss condition and length of rental agreement
- Discuss any housing top-ups you are paying
- Register with the Local Authority to get on the housing register (this is unlikely to come to anything, but it’s worth doing as early as possible)
- Family to understand how deposits work in the UK, and how this has been paid.
- Family understand how to report issues with the property.
- Repeat messages from previous quarter.
- Family to be reporting any issues/liaising with landlord alone.
- Discussing break clauses (if applicable).
- Developing skills on how to search for property beyond month 24.
- Role of Local Authority and benefits implications.
Tools to support the family’s move to a new home
As a Community Sponsorship group, you’ve got many different resources to tap into to empower the family to move to a new home. Just remember to start exploring these suggestions early in your support!
Saving for a deposit
- Explain that the group has paid the deposit for their current home. This is money that will be returned to the group after the family has moved out of the property, barring any damages. As a group, you may decide to use this money to pay for the family’s next deposit as a gift, however, there is no obligation for you to do this.
- Your council may have its own rent deposit, bond or guarantee scheme or they may know of other local schemes run by charities. Get in touch with your contacts at the Local Authority to find out what’s available to the family and when the time comes, help the family to apply for any schemes available to them.
Use your networks
- Get the word out to other landlords in your area – just as you did when you were looking for the family’s current property – while being mindful of the family’s privacy. Since you last found a property, it’s likely that there are other landlords willing to rent a home at housing allowance rates. Remember that the family will now have a history of paying rent in the UK.
- Many people in the UK find new rental property online through websites like Zoopla and Right Move.
- Showing the family what is available in their area in their price range can also be a great tool for managing expectations.
- Housing associations offer similar types of housing as local councils – often to people on a low income or who need extra support. As it can take a very long time for a property to become available through a housing association, you can encourage the family to find out the process to apply directly as early as possible.
- There is a high demand for social housing in the UK with a very limited supply, so it is important to contact housing associations early on in your support to the family.
- A number of Housing Associations have signed up to the Housing Association Pledge to Migrant People. Whilst this is not a commitment to provide housing to resettled refugees, they are likely to be approachable.
- Local Authorities have a duty to provide accommodation for those who need it, however, the demand is greater than the resources the Local Authority has. Often, they cannot assist until someone has been made homeless, and even then, emergency accommodation (e.g. B&Bs) may be used. Local Authorities will have a housing register, and it’s worth seeing if the family you support can go on this soon after arrival. Whilst it is an unlikely solution, there is no harm in doing so, and they can remove themselves if this is not required.
Moving outside the local area
- Some Community Sponsorship groups are based in areas where the family is unlikely to find affordable housing once their initial tenancy agreement ends. Where this is the case, some groups help the family explore other nearby areas or even in other parts of the UK where they have established connections.
- It may be that this need to move on after two years can be seen as disruptive, however, it can be helpful to reframe this; the first two years in the UK is about establishing a firm footing for the family to start their lives and learn how to navigate systems and life here – as a group, you are giving them this safe and supportive start.
- If the family decides to move to another area in a different Local Authority, help them to understand how this can affect their benefits and your group’s support.
- If the family will need, or want to move out of area after two years, help them understand how this may impact any children in the family. A move will be disruptive to schooling, but it happens to other students in the UK, and you can help them build a strong plan to reduce disruption.
- Think about how you can help the family decide where they want to live; if you can, why not help the family make a list of areas of the UK where they have connections or would like to live, and travel with them to visit to get a taste of what life is like there? Help them look up schools, shops and potential employment opportunities in these areas.
- Use a cost of living calculator such as Numbeo to help the family compare the cost of living across the UK.
Some groups have found that resettled families arrive in the UK without understanding that they must pay rent, that they don’t get to choose their accommodation and that their housing will not be guaranteed for more than two years. Many groups find that they must set the record straight when the family arrives, explaining the group’s obligations and role in housing. Keep in mind that although they may seem disappointed, helping the family to understand the reality of their situation is empowering.
It’s also important that you help the family members have realistic expectations for their housing after the two-year period. Many groups source housing at lower than market rates from benevolent landlords. For example, the first family to be welcomed to the UK through Community Sponsorship was sponsored by the Archbishop of Canterbury and lived in central London for two years. This is an extreme example, however, if you know that accommodation you’ve sourced is heavily subsidized and likely nicer than what the family would typically afford in the area, make sure they are aware of this as you explain your support in their first weeks in the UK.
Being the bearer of perceived bad news may not land well at first, but it will help the family transition to a more independent and empowered life in the UK as your support changes over time.
How Reset can help
Get in touch with us if you’d like to discuss your specific situation and for more examples of what strategies have worked for other groups around the UK. No area, family and Community Sponsorship group are the same so different strategies will work for different groups.
Reset also regularly receive property offers from landlords around the UK who want to rent their property to refugees. If we get an offer in your area, we will let you know!