Agenda item

Sevenoaks District - Homes for Ukraine and Asylum Seeker Dispersal Update


The Head of Housing presented the report, which updated the committee on the Homes for Ukraine scheme, the Asylum Seeker Dispersal Areas, and the Refugee Resettlement Schemes.


The officer explained that the Homes for Ukraine scheme had received 555 host applications since launching in March 2022, with 471 guests arriving. The accommodation was provided for at least 6 months to better allow for integration. Three housing options – rematching to a new host, sole occupancy, or shared accommodation – were available for guests that were unable to continue staying with their first host. 107 homeless applications had been received from guests accommodated through the Ukrainian Refugee Schemes since February 2022, of which 41 homeless duties had been accepted. 5 households were placed in temporary accommodation and 27 guests had been accommodated in the private rented sector. A Lettings Negotiator had recently been appointed to assist in bringing guests into private rentals.


The committee heard that nearly £3 million of capital funding had been secured through the Local Authority Housing Fund, for the provision of 16 housing units for Homes for Ukraine and one 4 bedroom unit for the Afghan Scheme. Six of the units for the Homes for Ukraine scheme had already been delivered at the 27 – 29 High Street, Swanley site. A further £297,898 had been received from central government, which would be used to support guests into private accommodation and employment.


All local authorities were required to participate in the Asylum Seeker Dispersal Scheme, as more asylum seekers continued to arrive in the UK. The South East Strategic Partnership for Migration were working with local authorities to and had put forward a place-based approach to the Home Office to address the issue. Through the place-based approach Sevenoaks was expected to receive 86 asylum seekers before 31 December 2023, though this figure had not been approved and could change. The Home Office’s contractor would acquire the properties and work with stakeholders to ensure sufficient infrastructure was in place to support the asylum seekers once they were in place. The officer outlined the other settlement schemes the Council participated in.


In response to questions, the officer explained that the Refugee Settlement schemes were coordinated by Kent County Council (KCC), and that forecast figures for arrivals were unknown. Five families were housed in the district under the Syrian Vulnerable Persons Resettlement Scheme, and six were housed through the Afghan Resettlement Scheme. The Council had an internal officers group working across the Communities and Housing services to ensure support was provided for guests coming into the district. The teams continued to have weekly meetings with KCC, and worked proactively to address issues before they arose. A consultation event was held in March 2023 with hosts and guests, offering advice and support to find alternative accommodation and other areas in which they required further support.


The officer explained that the Council had not been approached by the Home Officer to accommodate Asylum Seekers through the Asylum Seeker Dispersal Scheme and did not have the details of the offers that would be available to landlords who let their properties through the Scheme. The Council faced a demand for social housing that outweighed the available stock, and land and property prices made it difficult to deliver more. The Council attended numerous government events and outlined the additional pressure on these services that resettlement schemes would create. The Chief Officer for People and Places outlined the Landlord Incentive Scheme in place to encourage landlords to house homeless people, but explained that uptake was low. Owners of empty homes were approached directly regarding the scheme, but few owners were willing to participate.


Resolved: That the report be noted.


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