Responding to calls from Lead Sponsors for financial assistance to mitigate the risks associated with Community Sponsorship, US philanthropist Ed Shapiro pledged £1 million in December 2020 to launch the Community Sponsorship Backstop Fund.
Lead Sponsors play a vital role in Community Sponsorship. Community Sponsors are volunteers, but they take on some real responsibilities: raising and holding funds, engaging with statutory services, and supporting a family who may have significant vulnerabilities. To ensure that these responsibilities are carried out sensibly and legally, Community Sponsorship groups are required to work with a Lead Sponsor – usually a charity or Community Interest Company (CIC) – who will take legal responsibility for the group’s activities.
Being a Lead Sponsor can be fantastically rewarding. It enables charities or CICs to engage at a grassroots level to create meaningful social change in local communities, while also facilitating the safe arrival and reception of additional refugee families to the UK.
But because Lead Sponsors are legally and financially liable for the Community Sponsorship groups that they take on, it also involves risk. And that’s where the Backstop Fund comes in.
The Backstop Fund reduces the financial exposure of Lead Sponsors by providing a backstop that they can access as a last resort in the case of unforeseen events taking place once a family arrives. Grants are available at a lower level (£1,000, to tackle early signs of a developing problem) and a higher level (£5,000, for an issue of significant concern) in line with the criteria specified here.
For almost a year, the Community Sponsorship Backstop Fund has been providing reassurance to Lead Sponsors so that they can feel confident taking on this risk.
Jonathan Cox, Deputy Director of Citizens UK, explains how the Backstop Fund has enabled Citizens UK to act as Lead Sponsor to more Community Sponsorship groups:
The Backstop Fund has been a gamechanger for Lead Sponsors – and for anyone who wants to see community sponsorship in the UK grow. Through Sponsor Refugees, Citizens UK is the largest Lead Sponsor in the UK, and we help local groups who want to sponsor a refugee family by taking on the risk with the Home Office, and by taking away the hassle of charity registration. This means local people can focus on what matters – preparing their community to welcome a family! Prior to the Backstop Fund our trustees put very strict conditions in place as to which and how many groups we could act as Lead Sponsor for – and this was to mitigate the risk to us a charity because if something goes wrong then it is our job to help sort it out. The Backstop Fund has allowed us to relax our conditions and open up our offer to act as Lead Sponsor to many more groups, such as those that have come forward in the wake of the crisis in Afghanistan.
Funding for the Backstop Fund is only guaranteed until January 2022. We urge all Lead Sponsors to register their organisations and their Community Sponsorship applications for the fund before 31 January 2022 to benefit from the security it provides. Lead Sponsors accepted on the Backstop Fund will be able to benefit from the fund for up to 2 years.