On Thursday 9 March the Cabinet at Sevenoaks District Council agreed to use a 6 bedroom, West Kent property in Eynsford, to home our first family of Syrian refugees.
Sevenoaks District Council has always been committed to homing a family of Syrian refugees but until now we have not been able to find a suitable property. We are not supposed to use a social rented home as we are not allowed, or would we want to, displace a local family in need from living in that home. Our private rented sector is smaller than most other districts and landlords can charge higher rents then what the government pays for refugees – so, so far none have come forward.
In October the council approved the Community scheme where a church or charity group is able to donate a home for 2 to 5 years for a Syrian refugee family – we as a council would support their efforts and home one there. Again, so far no community group has come forward either. We will be advertising for private landlords and community groups to come forward in our next edition of ‘In Shape’.
In the meantime West Kent Housing Association has had an empty, six bedroom home that has been adapted for disabled use. Due to the spare room subsidy there has been no local family in either the Sevenoaks District, Dartford, Tonbridge & Malling or Tunbridge Well borough councils that need a six bedroom home either. West Kent decided the sell the property with no guarantee of them reinvesting the money back into social provision in our district – meaning we could lose a social rented home.
Under these circumstances it is possible to home a family of Syrian refugees under the government approved: Kent Syrian Vulnerable Persons Relocation Scheme. West Kent agreed that we could use the home for these purposes and cabinet approved that decision on 9 March.
Tunbridge Wells Borough Council who have already settled six Syrian refugee families have said that the families they have re-settled in villages have been more successful then those in the towns due to the community support they receive. We have been overwhelmed with amount of support that has come forward so far, so although Eynsford does not have the facilities of a town, we are confident that this will be a success.
Working with representatives from the village the council will identify a suitable family that we all believe will be able to settle in Eynsford and then we can begin planning the preparations, welcome and re-settlement programme.
If any of you have any skills or time that you would like to donate to helping settle our new refugee family can you email the council at Refugee.Support@sevenoaks.gov.uk or contact me directly.