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: