Extending the welcome
We were so pleased to see flights for families start up again last year following the pandemic, and this year we have been delighted to see the number of Community Sponsorship groups welcoming families, particularly amid an ongoing housing and cost of living crisis. But it has also been a challenging year for sponsorship, challenges that we have had to navigate as we worked to help as many of those fleeing Afghanistan and Ukraine as possible.
Sponsorship has enabled us to welcome Afghans and Ukrainians desperately in need of help, but the sponsorship landscape for people wanting to help has become confusing. The team at Reset has worked to ensure the multiple sponsorship schemes are as clear as possible and have provided tailored advice and training.
It has been brilliant to see the Afghan Citizens Resettlement Scheme (ACRS) opened to Community Sponsorship this year, allowing groups to welcome Afghan families from bridging hotels here. Community Sponsorship groups have understood that living in a hotel, not knowing where you are going to end up, is no way for a family or individual to live their lives. And so, groups have stepped up to welcome them into their communities, giving them certainty and stability.
This year we have seen the growing diversity among the families welcomed through sponsorship – families from Syria, Sudan, Somalia, Ethiopia, Iraq, and many others. We feel it is only right that that when welcoming refugees through sponsorship, community-led welcome has a global reach in doing so – we look forward to seeing Community Sponsorship continue to broaden in helping people, wherever they may be.
Growing Community Sponsorship
Community Sponsorship has continued to grow and strengthen in all four nations of the UK this year. A record number of 57 groups submitted applications to the Home Office this year – the highest number in a year since the start of Community Sponsorship! This speaks to the tenacity and persistence of groups to welcome and shows that no matter how hard things can feel here at home, the generosity of people is steadfast.
Not only have we seen new groups, but new Lead Sponsors too; these are organisations who have stepped forward to offer amazing support and guidance for groups. The Lead Sponsor Network continues to strengthen, ensuring that learning and collaboration remains at the heart of Lead Sponsor support of groups.
In the summer, Reset, alongside the Community Sponsorship Alliance and the Home Office, facilitated stakeholder engagement with groups and Lead Sponsors to gather learning on what needs to happen to speed up the process and grow Community Sponsorship. In addition to workshops we held with groups and Lead Sponsors, almost 200 people responded to our survey. We will be working to see the learnings applied in 2023.
Other highlights from this year include seeing pre-arrival contact becoming available for groups and families, meaning they can now start getting to know each other even before the family have arrived. This has been something we know groups have requested for a long time. Welcomed families have told us how reassuring it is to speak with the group ahead of their arrival, knowing that this is the group who will be welcoming them at the airport and guiding them through their new lives here.
As we head into 2023, Reset is particularly excited about growing Community Sponsorship. We will soon launch our ‘CommuniTeas’ campaign to encourage people to organise tea parties and spread the word about Community Sponsorship and grow the movement. We will be working with groups and organisations to host events to spread the awareness of Community Sponsorship – and what better way to do this than over a cup of tea!
Sharing our learning is important to us, so we are planning an impact report which we will publish on the Reset website. This report will highlight the integration outcomes for families, the challenges involved and how groups overcome them, and promoting the value of community-led welcome. Community Sponsorship makes a difference not only to the lives of the refugees we resettle, but also to the very communities who welcome them.
We are looking forward to launching our new e-learning platform. Reset has a dedicated team who provide training and support to all groups and to maximise our capacity we’re going to deliver some of our training through our e-learning platform. This will open new possibilities on how we provide training to groups and increase our ability to offer further support. We’ll also look to offer new core skills training sessions in the new year, including on taking a trauma informed approach to working with refugees. We know many welcomed families will have experienced traumatic events, and we’re keen to help equip groups with the knowledge and guidance needed to ensure the people they’re welcoming have access to resources and support.
We will continue to build the capacity of our Experts by Experience programme, working directly with welcomed refugees to learn from those who have been welcomed and amend our practice accordingly. We will be working with Experts to host workshops, share their stories, and help give them a platform to ensure their voices are heard.
We look forward to seeing more groups welcome through ACRS Pathway 2, which will allow groups to welcome Afghan families who could not be evacuated and had to flee to neighbouring countries where they registered with UNHCR.
In the new year, the 1000th refugee to be welcomed through Community Sponsorship will arrive! This will be an incredible milestone, and one which we hope to celebrate with the amazing groups who have made this all possible. We hope in 2023 that we continue to see the yearly increase of families welcomed through Community Sponsorship.
Thank you to everyone who makes this possible.