It is now two years since the inaugural meeting of the Diocesan refugee Support Group. Last year’s meeting was attended by over 100 people. One of the speakers was Sean Ryan, He is the National Coordinator for the Caritas Social Action Network (CSAN) of the Community Sponsorship Scheme run by the Home Office for resettling Syrian refugee families accepted into the UK.
One parish that has taken up the challenge is St Mary & St Michael in Settle. Initially working with Settle & District Churches Together, the parish project has now extended to a community-wide project with 90 local supporters. Work proper started at the end of summer, making a huge amount of progress as the following report highlights.
There is a team for each of the following:
Housing – This group have undertaken various explorations of how to get a property for a long term (two year) rental and hope to sort something out soon.
ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages) – community sponsors must provide each adult 8hrs formal teaching and 4hrs conversation. The response from the community has been extraordinary: they have assembled a fantastic team committed and already skilled/qualified to provide ESOL in-house. One wrote and supervised the ‘Talk English’ scheme used for the first refugees in Wakefield. Two sets of premises have been offered in Settle for teaching and conversations including the library where there is IT access and space for a creche if needed. Many social groups have indicated they will encourage the family to join their activities if they wish e.g. gardening.
Family, welfare, education, benefits – this team is responsible for much of the day-to-day settling in of the family. Planning a welcome at the airport and how to transport everyone together, Welcome packs/info, initial money, welcome meal. They will organise volunteer rotas to ensure the family are supported but not overwhelmed.
They will help with getting the family registered with a local GP and
with a local dentist. Solace UK, based in Leeds, has a therapy programme specifically for Syrian adult and child refugees and covers Settle.
Settle primary school have been very supportive and keen to accept/help integrate the family (most families prioritised by the UNHCR have had younger children). Giggleswick school offered extra-curricular support and attendance at a summer school.
They have also had offers from a local working in Jordan to bring back spices that would be familiar and from a Lebanese gentleman who volunteers for the Refugee Council. He takes the Skipton refugees to Manchester once a month to shop in Arab Street, “just like in Syria you have everything your heart desires”.
Safeguarding – A team of 4 have been assembled. Catholic Care, as the sponsoring charity, provides governance and takes safeguarding responsibility.
Publicity & Communication – it is important to have the community aware and on-board to welcome the new family. 1,000 flyers have been printed. The group had a stall at Settle lights switch on, and have had articles in U3A newsletter and Settle Community News. Paul Kelly the Project Lead addressed Settle Town Council and Giggleswick Parish Council. They are- generally supportive; the Mayor is arranging a councillor to act as liaison. One Town councillor offered help finding employment.
Finance – sponsorship from Catholic Care (Diocese of Leeds) enables them to claim Gift Aid using Catholic Care’s charity number.
Some generous donors have helped them to feel confident of covering the minimum £9,000 required by the Home Office but they will need a larger cushion to cover all expenses for 2yrs.
Various fundraising activities have already taken place and more are planned.
There will be a lot more to this story and, hopefully, we will be able to share some of it with you as it progresses.