Ensuring equality and working with communities
Hammersmith and Fulham Council, Gateshead Council, Islington Council, Lewisham Council, Stevenage Borough Council
Labour councils have a strong track record in welcoming and integrating refugees that have been forced to leave their own countries to escape war, famine, or political persecution. This has included both emergency responses to situations like the closure of the Calais camp, and longer term resettlement work. Labour councils led the way in building additional capacity for children from the Calais camp. For instance, Hammersmith and Fulham Council organised social workers to visit Calais to assess children and to undertake assessments of new families, and Labour councils added their support to the campaign to adopt the Dubs Amendment.
Labour councils continue to support resettlement of Syrian refugees. Gateshead Council is a leading authority area on the Syrian Refugee Resettlement Programme, settling 312 individuals to date with further intakes expected. The service has helped with accommodation, employment, education and health, and has made a strong focus on integration and building links within the local community, including working closely with local church groups, social activities including the arts, music, and even a Sunday league football team. Islington Council, recognising the impact of the Government’s ‘hostile environment’ policy, created a new ‘Migrants Champion’ position. Held by a backbench councillor, the champion ensures that services consider the needs and experiences of migrants, and advocates for an inclusive community. The council has welcoming 15 Syrian families, sourcing all homes for the families through partnerships with voluntary and community groups, and has pledged to welcome 100 unaccompanied child refugees over the coming years.
Lewisham Council is also expanding its refugee resettlement programme, with a target of resettling a further 100 refugee households, and is working towards being recognised as the leading London borough for refugee resettlement. The council is developing a support resettlement service and recruiting a full time Refugee Programme Manager, as well as ensuring that refugees are assessed on their English language ability and can access accredited English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) courses. And Stevenage Borough Council has helped to support five refugee families from Syria to settle in the town, working with local community and faith groups and the Refugee Council to settle families into the community and access local schools and resources.