What is Community Sponsorship?

Community Sponsorship is a refugee resettlement programme with local people at its heart. Resettlement is the term used to describe what happens when a refugee is moved from a host country in which they’ve sought asylum to a country that has the capacity to support them in the long term. Resettlement is a safe route for vulnerable refugees to reach the UK.

Community Sponsorship is a shared endeavour. Individuals who may or may not already know each other form a group and work together to prepare for and welcome a refugee family to their local area. When communities lead the welcome, refugees have the benefit of a local support network right from day one.

The group supports the family through their first year in the UK to live independent lives, learn English, and access schools, benefits, healthcare and employment and participate fully in the community. These groups receive training and support from Reset through every stage of their journey and are also supported by their Lead Sponsor, who takes legal responsibility for the project.

The origins of Community Sponsorship are in Canada where more than 300,000 refugees have been welcomed since 1979. Its origins in the UK date to 2015 when David Cameron announced that by 2020 the UK would welcome 20,000 refugees affected by the crisis in Syria. In response, charities and faith organisations asked the government to introduce a sponsorship scheme similar to the one in Canada, to allow people in the UK to play a direct role in supporting refugees.

The government listened and in 2016 the Community Sponsorship scheme was launched by the Home Office. A new movement had been born and very quickly Community Sponsorship groups sprung up in every region and nation of the UK. In the first five years of the programme more than 100 groups welcomed more than 500 refugees.

The Covid-19 pandemic challenged Community Sponsorship in the same way it challenged all aspects of life around the world. There was a temporary hold on new arrivals and groups had to adapt the way they supported families already in the UK. Alongside others, we campaigned hard for resettlement to restart and in February 2021 families began arriving again. We also helped groups to maintain momentum on volunteer recruitment. The pandemic could have meant fewer sponsors coming forward but the opposite happened and more people than ever before stepped up.

A new chapter of Community Sponsorship began in early 2021 with the launch of the UK Resettlement Scheme. Initially the scheme will focus on resettling those from the Middle East and North Africa region who have been waiting the longest for resettlement places but over time it will develop a broader global scope so that it can respond quickly to emergency need for resettlement. Community Sponsorship is a movement that is set to continue growing and thriving.

What next?