Call for accommodation to resettle refugees slammed as ‘too slow’ by Sidmouth councillor

PUBLISHED: 19:54 03 May 2016

Matt Booth

Matt Booth

Archant

Landlords in Sidmouth and Ottery St Mary, with vacant family-sized properties, are being urged to come forward to help house Syrian refugees.

East Devon District Council (EDDC) issued a call for accommodation across the region as part of the Government’s Syrian Vulnerable Person Resettlement programme (VPR), under which local authorities are asked to help re-house people fleeing the war-torn country.

The council says housing suitable for families is urgently needed and it is ideally seeking properties with two bedrooms or more that are in good order and well maintained.

Campaigners in Sidmouth and Ottery welcomed the call this week, but criticised the authority for being too slow to act and not doing enough to help the many thousands of vulnerable people left in a desperate situation.

Sidmouth town and district councillor Matt Booth has visited refugee camps in Calais and works with local action groups to help displaced families.

He told the Herald: “I think the speed is appalling. Of course it is good the word has gone out, but the word could have gone out before Christmas to be honest. I think it’s not enough. What I have been saying is we need to be really extending it and speaking to Refugee Support Devon and South West Syrian Support Group. That whole support network is there to be used, but all we are hearing from EDDC is ‘we cannot move until Devon County Council (DCC) does’.”

Working in partnership with other bodies in the scheme, EDDC would manage properties and provide tenancy agreements lasting five years, as resettled refugees are being granted humanitarian protection status for this long. The rent will be in line with the local housing allowance.

EDDC says a careful balance will be made between the offers of accommodation and the availability of appropriate support, which will be tailored to the needs of individuals.

Anna Roderick, of Ottery St Mary Refugee Response Group, said: “It’s great to see that EDDC is taking some action. This crisis has been going on for a long time and, to date, EDDC and DCC seem to have been focussing on the obstacles rather than on finding solutions.

“Hopefully, that’s now changing. Local authorities in neighbouring areas like Somerset, Wiltshire and Gloucester are way ahead in their response and have already welcomed Syrian families into their communities. There is a lot of goodwill among people in Devon on this issue, but we need our local councils to be proactive and play their part.”

Councillor Jill Elson, EDDC’s portfolio holder for sustainable homes and communities, said: “We are keen to help support vulnerable refugees fleeing the Syrian crisis and we believe that the most effective way to do this is through targeted resettlement.

“Helping the refugees relocate is one of our priorities and we want to work closely with any landlords in East Devon who think they may be able to assist with this important scheme.

“We want to give refugees the best possible chance to make a new life for themselves and we look forward to working closely with the VPR programme team to ensure that this happens.”

Registered landlords should contact Andrew Mitchell, either by calling 01395 517469, or by emailing amitchell@eastdevon.gov.uk

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