Q&A: Community Sponsorship

Guest post by Emmeline Skinner Cassidy from Community Sponsorship organisation Reset UK.

United Kingdom. Community volunteers help Syrian family integrate in Wales

© UNHCR/Photographer

Community Sponsorship Q&A

Over the past week, we’ve been overwhelmed (in a good way!) by the number of people getting in touch to ask how they can support refugees. Our role at Reset is to train people to welcome refugees by becoming Community Sponsors. But what does that mean?

Community Sponsorship is a refugee resettlement programme enabling people to come together in a local area to welcome a refugee family and support them as they rebuild their lives here in the UK.

As a Community Sponsor, you’ll support a refugee family right from the day they arrive by greeting them at the airport. You’ll continue to support them throughout their first year here in the UK. Every family is different, so every Community Sponsorship group provides different support, but you can expect to be helping a family to learn English, access education, find employment and get to know people in your neighbourhood.

Here are 10 things to know about Community Sponsorship

  1. Why is this programme important?

Community Sponsorship can be transformational for the families resettled and the communities hosting them. Read about how Community Sponsorship gave Carol in Exeter a new sense of purpose after her husband passed away, and how Abdullah found a ‘new family’ in his Community Sponsors.

Every refugee resettled through Community Sponsorship is counted in addition to those resettled under government targets. This means that Community Sponsorship is a way to directly increase the number of refugees able to safely start new lives in the UK.

  1. Who is resettled through Community Sponsorship?

Community Sponsorship enables people who are outside of the UK and who have fled their country of origin, to come to the UK safely. Many of the people welcomed through Community Sponsorship so far are Syrian refugees who fled to Jordan, Lebanon or Turkey.

Community Sponsorship is open to people of all nationalities and backgrounds. They must be identified by the UN’s Refugee Agency as refugees and assessed as being in priority need of resettlement.

There are lots of reasons why a person might be in priority need of resettlement. For example, they might have a health condition that cannot be treated in their current location.

  1. Where is Community Sponsorship happening?

There are more than 250 Community Sponsorship groups spread across every region and every nation of the UK. Find your nearest group.

  1. Is this a new programme?

Community Sponsorship has only been running since 2016 in the UK, but the idea of sponsoring refugees has a longer history. In Canada, more than 300,000 refugees have been resettled through sponsorship over the last 40 years.

  1. Who can sponsor a refugee family?

Absolutely anyone! We’ve seen Community Sponsorship groups come together through local sports teams, book clubs, places of worship and even pub quiz teams!

We also see lots of groups made up of neighbours coming together who have never met before.

  1. Don’t I need any special qualifications or experience?

No. Community Sponsorship values local knowledge and expertise. You’re already an expert in your local area. You know which bins go out on which day. You know the nicest walks and the best free activities.

These might seem like insignificant details, but having someone to chat to about these practical aspects of day-to-day life can make a massive difference when you’re new to an area.

You’ll receive training from us at Reset to cover some more specialised skills, like how to support a family in a way that is helpful but also empowering, rather than creating a relationship of dependence.

  1. How big of a commitment is Community Sponsorship?

Most Community Sponsorship groups have two parts: a core group of around 5-10 people who are really committed and give more of their time, and a wider group of people who help out with odd jobs here and there.

There’s always a way to contribute to your local Community Sponsorship group, whether you’ve got lots of time to give, or only a spare half hour once in a while.

Lots of core group members are parents and/or in full-time employment. One of the nice things about Community Sponsorship is that you can shape your group so that it works for you and the other group members. If you’re all very busy people, your group will probably need to be on the bigger side so that you can share the tasks out across more people.

  1. What is the application process like?

To be approved as a Community Sponsor, you have to submit an application to the Home Office. You’ll need to fill out an application form in which you’ll explain how your group will be able to support a family. Reset will hold an application workshop for your group and will also check your application and give feedback before you submit it to the Home Office.

The application process also involves some practical elements. You’ll need to raise money, source accommodation and get consent from your Local Authority.

If this sounds a bit daunting – don’t worry. You’ll be supported by us every step of the way.

As part of the application process, you’ll attend 2 compulsory training sessions with us at Reset and you can attend further optional ‘core skills’ training sessions too. Plus we’re always at the end of the phone!

You’ll also be working with a Lead Sponsor – a registered charity that will support your group.

  1. Where will the family live?

As Community Sponsors, you will need to source accommodation that will be available to the family for 2 years.

Finding appropriate and affordable housing isn’t always an easy task, but Community Sponsorship groups are phenomenally successful in sourcing housing and negotiating reduced rents for refugee families in order to make the property affordable.

The housing will need to be fully independent – it can’t be a room in your house. If you’re looking for a way to host a refugee in your home, check out the amazing Refugees At Home!

  1. How can I get started?

To get started today, sign up for one of our online Introduction to Community Sponsorship sessions. We’ll give a more in-depth overview of the programme and talk you through your next steps.

 

 

Author Emmeline Skinner Cassidy

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