Working with your Local Authority will be essential for the approval of your application to become a community sponsor and once a family arrive. Building a collaborative relationship as early as possible will help you to ensure the support you offer a resettled family is the best it can be. Not only will your Local Authority be able to signpost relevant local services and organisations who will be able to provide you with assistance, but they must give their consent for your sponsorship group to resettle a family in the area and assure that the housing you intend to provide for the family is suitable. In the very unlikely event that a sponsor agreement breaks down, the Local Authority will have the responsibility to step in to support the resettled family. All Local Authorities will be risk-aware of the impact on their own resources so groups are advised to start the process of engaging with their Local Authority as soon as they can in their application planning and be clear in their communication and expectation of their Local Authority.
What does ‘consent’ mean?
Local Authorities are not asked to approve your application; this responsibility lies with the Home Office.
Local Authorities are asked to provide consent that it is ok for a family to be resettled in your area, and every Local Authority will approach this differently; some may wish to meet with you, others may like to read your resettlement plan, and others may give you consent following a phone call.
The Home Office issued advice to Local Authorities on their responsibilities regarding community sponsorship that you can direct your Local Authority toward. Home Office Guidance for Local Authorities.
What will you be asking your Local Authority for?
You’ll be asking your Local Authority to:
- Agree that you can resettle a refugee family in your community.
- Put you in contact with the Local Safeguarding Children Board (LSCB).
- Confirm that the accommodation you will be providing to the resettled family is suitable.
- Attend a pre-approval visit with yourselves and the Home Office.
- Agree to the resettled family moving to your area once you have been approved. You will also need to accept the resettled family.
- Work with you in your transition planning to ensure that those resettled through sponsorship continue to be supported after the end of your sponsor agreement.
- Local Authorities will also be invited to attend your review meetings with the Home Office once the resettled family have arrived.
Understanding your Local Authority
There are many types of Local Authorities who work in a multitude of ways and it’s important to research how the one in which the resettled family will live works, to find the best way to approach them. You can find out more about how Local Authorities work on the Local Government Association website.
In some areas, groups may need to receive consent from County and City, District or Borough Councils. You can find out whether you are in a dual Local Authority area here: https://www.gov.uk/find-local-council.
Finding out who to speak to in your Local Authority can be challenging as different teams will look after resettlement. We suggest that you make contact with your Strategic Migration Partnership (SMP) in the first instance who will be able to guide you to the right person and department; they will also be able to tell you more about what is taking place in terms of resettlement in your area. They may also be able to provide training and other resources that may be helpful for your group.
Some sponsor groups have been fortunate to have a current or former Local Authority Councillor or employee as part of their group, and this has helped them to navigate how their Local Authority operates.
Your Local Authority may already be participating in the VPRS scheme and have consented to other community sponsorship schemes in the area. For others, they may not be operating a resettlement scheme and you will be introducing community sponsorship to them – be prepared to answer questions whether they are participating in the VPRS scheme or not.
Building a positive relationship with your Local Authority
Many groups have found working with their Local Authority to be a positive experience right from the outset and this has assisted them greatly in their application. For others, they have had to build a brand new relationship. It’s important to remember that Local Authority Officers and teams are very overstretched and working across multiple areas of work so it may take some time for the right person to get back to you. Do try to make it as easy as possible for them to provide their consent, showing them the work that you are doing, what your plans are, and what you need from them. Don’t be surprised if you are asked questions on your work and what the make up of your group is; the Local Authority will want to make sure that all eventualities are covered, should they need to step in. It may be useful to share with your Local Authority that to date, there has not been a breakdown in a sponsorship agreement. Your relationship with your Local Authority is likely to develop and change whilst you are sponsoring a resettled family, and working collaboratively from the outset is going to help this to happen.
A note on language
Groups have shared with us that they sometimes es feel that they are not being taken seriously by their Local Authority or that the Local Authority does not feel that the work of a group is not important. This is certainly not the case. Local Authorities work in a certain way and what may seem bureaucratic and rigid from the outside may be there for a reason and to provide structure and process in local government. Resettlement teams in Local Authorities across the UK are working incredibly hard and with great dedication to support and welcome refugees; they just may not always express this in the same way that a sponsor group may.
If you need further advice or support in getting the consent of your Local Authority, please contact the Reset Team who would be happy to help.