Published: 07 Feb 2022  |  Category: Resettlement

Understanding ACRS

Find out more about the Afghan Citizens’ Resettlement Scheme (ACRS) and how you can get involved

On 6 January 2022, the UK Government announced that the Afghan Citizens’ Resettlement Scheme had opened.  Having previously confirmed that Community Sponsorship groups were going to be able to resettle Afghans through the scheme and in their neighbourhoods.  The programme is still under development as it’s put into practice and changes are happening as lessons are learnt on what works. 

The UK Government have committed to welcoming 25,000 Afghans over the next 5 years.  This includes 5,000 within the first year.  Many of those arrived as part of the evacuation effort at the end of the summer in 2021.  Community Sponsorship groups who welcome will be offering places as part of this pledge, and the numbers of people they welcome will not be counted in addition to the pledge made.  This is different from how the UKRS programme works, where numbers of refugees resettled through sponsorship are counted separately. 

This page is designed to assist Community Sponsorship Groups understand what resettling through ACRS will mean to them.  

Who will groups be resettling?

In the immediate term, Community Sponsorship groups will be resettling Afghans who are currently living in bridging hotels across the UK.  These are the people who were evacuated in August 2021 following Afghanistan falling to the Taliban.  The evacuation effort was huge, and the priority was given to getting people out of the country quickly.  Families are still living in hotels having arrived in the summer and their need for onward accommodation and a chance to start their lives in the UK is great.  

This does represent a huge change for Community Sponsorship groups who have resettled refugees through the UK Resettlement Scheme (UKRS) who are identified in a host country by UNHCR and brought to the UK.  We know that the innovation and creativity shown by groups across the UK will be needed to adapt to this change. 

The Home Office have announced that from Spring 2022, they will be accepting families from out of country to the ACRS scheme.  

What will groups be doing? 

Groups who welcome Afghans who have been living in hotels will offer slightly different support to people on the programme.  In hotels, there is some casework taking place from the Home Office, the DWP have registered families for their benefits and children are attending schools.  This means that some of the traditional actions groups are asked to take will be different.  For example your support could include: 

  • Transferring benefits from one job centre to another 
  • Transferring children between schools 
  • Transferring or registering with new GPs 

What won’t change is the integration support that your group offers a family; introductions to local services and the area, formal and informal English language support, supporting access to volunteering and jobs and assisting in helping a family to live independent lives in your community.  Reset have adapted our ‘Preparing to Welcome’ training for groups welcoming through ACRS to help you navigate these differences from the UKRS scheme and we’ll be adding more resources for groups to our website over time. 

Is the application process different for groups welcoming through ACRS? 

No.  Groups should still use the existing application form and process when applying to the Home Office.  Make sure you inform your local authority/authorities you plan to welcome through ACRS when seeking their permission to apply. You should make clear to the Home Office when submitting your forms that the application is for an ACRS family, and you should think carefully about the languages you can support.  The main languages spoken in Afghanistan is Pashto and Dari. 

It’s highly likely that at least one member of the family will speak English.  Don’t forget that you’re supporting individuals within a family unit and do not rely on speaking through one person only. 

Please note that if you are welcoming through ACRS the Home Office will organise the transport for the family between the hotel they are living in and the accommodation you find for the family.  

If you are applying to welcome an ACRS family through the Principal Sponsor Application Process, you will need to have accommodation when submitting stage one of your application.

What information will we receive about the family we are allocated? 

The Home Office will provide as much detail as possible about the family allocated to you, including family make up, ages, language spoken, level of English each family member has and details of the casework support they have been offered.  You will not receive RRFs/MHAs as you would through the UKRS programme.  

We’d encourage groups to ask the Home Office to arrange contact between the family and group prior to acceptance – whilst this might not always be possible, it does not hurt to ask and we believe would be helpful for everyone.  

Groups will be asked to prepare information about their support and group that can be passed to the family.  For UKRS, you’re asked to provide 2 pages of A4 and no more, however, as the Home Office will pass on this information directly to the family, we’d encourage groups to ask the Home Office if they can submit videos or fuller information too.  

We can’t decide whether to welcome through UKRS or ACRS.  Can you help? 

Whilst this is a decision that we cannot make for you, we’d be happy to be a sounding board for you as you decide, just get in contact if we can help.  For those groups who are applying to welcome through ACRS, some of the questions they have asked themselves are: 

  • Do we have the right language provision to support an Afghan family? Are there local networks we can connect families with? 
  • Are we comfortable welcoming families where resettlement places will be counted toward government targets rather than in addition to? 
  • Many of the resources and learning that is available has been based on the previous Syrian resettlement programme and for people resettled from out of country.  Do we feel we have enough information to support people not through a similar pathway? What more do we need? 

The need for resettlement places that groups can offer is incredibly urgent, whether this is through ACRS or UKRS.  At Reset, we’re here to help you as you navigate applying to, and supporting those so desperately in need of assistance.