Agenda item

Refugees Update

Service Lead – Housing Advice and Homelessness to report.


The Committee received an update by the Service Lead – Housing Advice and Homeless in relation to Refugees who highlighted the following:


·       The Council had received a letter from Lord Harrington on Friday 1st July 2022 regarding the current situation in relation to the Afghanistan housing scheme. The letter explained that nationally a further 2,000 properties were required with 68% percent of those for larger families, which equated to 500 plus properties of five to six bedrooms.

·       As of 13th June 2022, less than 100 properties had been made available to the Afghanistan scheme.

·       North Devon Council had pledged two units of accommodation within the North Devon area, which three families had refused and were now in temporary accommodation.

·       There were 500 MOD units available across the UK and 12 of these were available at RMB Chivenor.

·       North Devon Council approached the MOD to request that 50% of those 12 units be made available for local use and the MOD refused.

·       RMBChivenor was quite an isolated community and South West Councils were looking to offer accommodation in blocks. RMB Chivenor was not a long term community and families would struggle to settle in the area and would prefer housing in the larger cities of the UK.

·       The cost figures per person were relayed to the Committee.

·       The funding to furnish properties would also have to be taken from the funding per person and property conditions were also a concern. The MOD had provided assurance that all units would be brought up to the required standards for gas and electricity prior to allocation together with the reassurance to the Council that the £5000 per year payable per property would only be required if the property was actually occupied.

·       There was a requirement for the Council to provide ongoing support to families in the same way as the Ukrainian scheme. However, there were concerns as to how that could be achieved at the present time.

·       There were other concerns regarding additional pressures on the housing service with regards to housing options, temporary accommodation and homelessness approaches to the service.

·       There were also concerns regarding the reaction of the local community who were unable to obtain accommodation within the North Devon area.

·       The Ukrainian scheme was running smoothly at the present time and any issues that had been identified had been quickly resolved.

·       There were currently 75 guests within the North Devon area.

·       A meeting had been held with Devon County Council and there had been 50 responses from potential hosts within the North Devon area together 14-16 pending arrivals with an initial stay period of six months.

·       There were weekly meetings with external partners in areas such as mental health.

·       The Council has had to deal with a couple of situations with regards to two fathers of Ukrainian families losing their lives in the war and how to support the rest of the family in those very difficult circumstances.

·       There was also a Ukrainian gentleman that sadly passed away at the North Devon District Hospital and the Council were involved with the funding for the burial arrangement together with respecting the religious beliefs of the family.

·       The Home office was currently preparing a paper to provide guidance to Councils should a situation of that nature arise in future.

·       Any media enquiries were being managed by Devon County Council as part of the Team Devon response.


In response to questions from the Committee, the Service Lead – Housing Advice and Homeless advised the following:


·       How best to manage the situation when a family refuses a property and then the Council is unable to offer the same accommodation to local family.

·       The nationwide pressure being put on local authorities to house refugees and the complexities involved as many MOD properties were located in rural areas where people didn’t want to be.

·       The responsibility on the Council to manage those properties at a time when both finances and resources were significantly stretched.


The Director of Resources and Deputy Chief Executive advised that an update would be considered by Full Council on 20th July 2022.


RESOLVED that a paper be produced to provide full details of the briefing to the July Full Council meeting.


The Committee thanked the Service Lead – Housing Advice and Homeless for her update.