At its meeting last week (Thursday 23 September) the Council unanimously agreed to participate in the Afghan Relocation and Assistance Policy Scheme (ARAS) and the Afghan Citizens Resettlement Scheme (ACRS).
Joint Council Leader Andrew Polson confirmed, “I am delighted that we have given a unanimous commitment to work with our partners locally, including the HSCP and voluntary sector, to provide support for up to four families to relocate here in East Dunbartonshire.
“We will be building on our invaluable experience with the Syrian Resettlement Programme, working closely with both COSLA and with Home Office colleagues, to ensure that we can support the four families we have committed to, as soon as possible.”
Joint Council Leader Vaughan Moody added, “We have additionally agreed to support the work of East Dunbartonshire Welcomes Refugees* in its efforts to assist and resettle a further Afghan family here in East Dunbartonshire.
“We are aware through our previous experience that initial support for resettlement of refugees can be intensive and we are working closely with partners to put that support in place.”
Through the Syrian Resettlement Programme, the Council supported four families (seven adults and 14 children), and four unaccompanied children to resettle in East Dunbartonshire. In supporting the Afghan schemes, the Council is joining 22 Scottish Local Authorities who have confirmed their commitment to support the programme. The commitment to the numbers being accommodated in each area is dependent on available local resources including housing availability and wider supports.
The Afghan relocation scheme is substantially different from previous resettlement schemes already in place and recognises that there may be a need to provide urgent responses to requests for suitable accommodation at short notice.
Councils are responsible for providing an integration package which includes receiving and welcoming support; housing/ accommodation; advice and assistance covering employment; welfare benefits; health care and GP access; education for school age children; and cash support. Pashto interpretation support will also be required.
Councillor Moody continued, “Commitment from our Community Planning Partners to provide the necessary support and assistance will be vital and in addition to the Home Office funding there is potential additional funding available in some circumstances to ensure that all required support is possible.”