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Understanding Lead Sponsorship

A Lead Sponsor is the organisation who take on the legal responsibility for the resettlement of a refugee family through Community Sponsorship.

The Lead Sponsor Organisation takes on the legal responsibility with the Home Office to ensure that a refugee family is resettled in a safe way in the UK,  you’ll be responsible for ensuring that the group of people who offer support to the family are fit to do so and sufficiently trained.  You’ll also be ensuring that the group have funds available to support the family once they arrive, oversee the safeguarding and complaints frameworks the group operate within and have sufficient insurance in place to carry out the tasks related to the project.

You will need to ensure that the group can provide integration support for a minimum of 12 months and that the refugee family will have access to accommodation for 24 months. You should anticipate still being involved in some way with the group for the entirety of the 2 year period that housing is provided.

One person from your organisation will be the named representative of the charity with the Home Office, and security checks will be carried out by the Home Office for this individual.

Organisation Status

To be a Lead Sponsor Organisation, you must be a registered charity or Community Interest Company (CIC) registered in your nation in the UK.  You are also able to act as a Lead Sponsor if your organisation falls within Section 10 (2) (a) of the Charities Act 2011.

It may be that you decide to register as a charity or a CIC in order to participate in the Community Sponsorship programme. We have guidance available for you here on setting up a charity or CIC.

The full sponsor obligations for a Lead Sponsor are available from the Home Office, and advice on how to meet these are detailed on the Reset Training website

You will be responsible for ensuring that the Community Sponsorship group fulfils the obligations set out by the Home Office and in your sponsor agreement, a legal agreement between your organisation and the Home Office. It may be that you take on a hands on role within the group in supporting a family, or you may have a more ‘arms-length’ role, having regular meetings with the group to check all is on track. 

In the event of the relationship between group and refugee family breaking down, or a situation occurring with the family that requires intervention, the Lead Sponsor organisation will be asked to step in to offer  a solution in the first instance. Local Authorities would be the final backstop should support be needed beyond what you can offer. The Community Sponsorship Backstop Fund can help Lead Sponsors plan for responding to emergency situations.

Reset can connect you with other Lead Sponsors or you can meet them through the Lead Sponsor Network to find out how they manage the Lead Sponsor role.

What does a Lead Sponsor need to provide?

You must provide a framework for the volunteers in a Community Sponsorship Group to operate within. This will include that they are suitable people to support refugees, which may include carrying out DBS or disclosure checks.

You will also be ensuring that the volunteers operate within a safeguarding framework, which protects everybody involved from harm. You may have your own safeguarding policy you ask the volunteers to use, or you could adapt the template policy provided by the Home Office. Reset are able to provide free safeguarding training for CS Groups, but it is essential for your organisation to check this training meets your needs.

You will need to put in place reporting and monitoring systems so that you are satisfied that the group are delivering against the obligations you've all agreed to with the Home Office.

You must also be completely happy with the level of support that a group will provide to a family. For example, you might wish to state that it's ok for group members to provide lifts in their personal cars to the family they support, but you will want to check any conditions on your insurance for this. You may want to say that a group cannot provide personal care to family members or that you wish to hold the group's funds in your bank account.

You will need to provide the Home Office with evidence of public liability insurance for the group's activities 2 weeks before a family arrives.

Do we get paid for being a Lead Sponsor?

There are no funds available for your organisation from the Home Office, although you are able to claim some funds for the family you support. Some Lead Sponsors do charge a group for being their Lead Sponsor, asking them to fundraise a certain amount to contribute toward your cost. This could be used for staff or volunteer time, or to pay for DBS or disclosure checks. We'd always recommend that you are clear with groups from the outset if this is the case for you. However, if you are a Lead Sponsor in London, please see our information on the Greater London Authority Fund.