Bucks is ready to welcome Syrian refugees fleeing war – but the government must pay towards the significant impact they will have on public services.
That is the line being taken by Martin Tett, leader of Bucks County Council, after Prime Minister David Cameron said the UK would accept 20,000 Syrian refugees over the next five years.
The council has now appointed a senior officer to oversee the authority’s response, with Mr Tett estimating that nine-tenths of services likely to be accessed by refugees fall under the county’s remit. These include schools, children’s services, safeguarding, public health, counselling, adult social care and translation. Mr Tett said officer Susie Yapp would co-ordinate the county’s approach with other agencies such as the district councils, which are responsible for housing, the NHS and police.
Mr Tett said: “Nobody here has not been moved by watching the refugees on TV. We will support the government and we recognise these people have endured terrible suffering. We want to be there to support them but we need resources.”
Currently the government will only give funding towards the first year of a refugee’s stay, which Mr Tett said was not enough.
“If we are taking people from some of the most distressed circumstances then we need funding for subsequent years, otherwise we are taking money from services for local people.”
He said making sure government commits to extra funding is ‘pretty well essential’: “Our funding is pretty critical already. Every decision we make is borderline in terms of what we keep going.”
It is not yet known how refugees will be shared throughout the country, whether there will be a quota imposed on councils or whether the scheme will be voluntary. However, the 20,000 figure equates to 30 per parliamentary constituency. There are five constituencies contained within Buckinghamshire, giving a total of 150.
The impact of the refugee crisis is already being felt in Bucks. The county is often forced to send looked-after children to foster carers in Kent, however these have now become unavailable as foster carers there look after hundreds of young asylum seekers.