By Grainne Cuffe, local democracy reporter
Lewisham Council is set to award a £1.7 million refugee resettlement contract to the Refugee Council.
The organisation provides support and advice to refugees and asylum seekers – the council says the contract will enable it to support up to 100 refugee families.
It has been contracted by the council since August 2019 to provide support, but the contract is due to come to an end in July.
A report on the contract award is set to go before mayor and cabinet on Wednesday, May 19.
“We consider that Refugee Council represents a recommended level of value for money and quality of the returned tenders,” it states.
The support provided by the organisation will include making initial arrangements for new arrivals, such as transport to their accommodation and supplying food, as well as providing ongoing casework support.
The Refugee Council will register families with local health, benefits, and education services.
The Government said it would support the resettlement of 20,000 vulnerable Syrian refugees by 2020 through the Syrian Vulnerable Persons Resettlement Scheme (VPRS).
Lewisham’s full council voted unanimously to participate in the scheme in September 2016 – in September 2018 mayor and cabinet agreed to resettle a further 100 refugee families.
New arrivals to the UK as part of the VPRS were suspended in March 2020 because of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The Home Office confirmed it would begin resuming new arrivals in March 2021 shortly.
According to the report going before mayor and cabinet: “We expect to start receiving new arrivals again from July 2021.
“As of April 28, 2021, the council had resettled 33 families, with 30 families currently living in the borough.”
The council receives funding from the Home Office for each person the Government refers to it.
It receives £8,520 for an adult and the same for anyone under 18 for the first year. In the first year the Home Office provides £850 for adult education, £4,500 for a young person between the ages of five and 18, and £2,250 for children aged three and four.
There is no funding provided for the education of children under three.
For the second year the council receives £5,000 per person, £3,700 for the third year, £2,300 for the fourth year, and £1,000 for the fifth year.
“Financially, the programme therefore aims to be cost neutral to the borough – any expenditure is covered by the funding we receive from Home Office,” according to the report.
Mayor and cabinet are recommended to approve the two-year contract on Wednesday with the option to extend for a further two years for a value of £1,707,728.
If the contract is extended for another two years it would cost an extra £988,534.
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