New support for Afghans in UK hotels to find settled housing

Afghans living in temporary bridging accommodation in the UK under the UK’s two resettlement schemes, Afghan Citizens Resettlement Scheme (ACRS) and Afghan Relocations and Assistance Policy (ARAP), will be given additional support to find settled accommodation after 18 months in hotels.

The use of temporary bridging accommodation has ensured that all Afghans have been housed safely from the moment they arrived, but this is unsuitable for children who are adjusting to their new life and schools, does not support individuals to enter the world of work and holds people back from putting down roots in communities.

Currently, Afghans who arrived on ACRS or ARAP make up a fifth of people living in bridging hotels, which is why the government’s new plan intensifies support to help Afghans move on from bridging accommodation. This is the right thing to do to ensure that those to whom we have made commitments are supported.

Today’s announcement will also help to provide more stability for families so they can rebuild their lives in the UK, and ensure they benefit from consistency of public services, schooling, and employment while also helping reduce the use of hotels which do not offer suitable long-term accommodation and have added pressure on local communities.

The government is providing £35 million in new cash for local authorities, which will go towards increasing the level of support available and overcoming key barriers in accessing the housing system and employment. This new, generous package of support comes in addition to the existing support available for people on the ACRS and ARAP schemes, including access to welfare and the right to work, as well as access to public services.

The Department of Levelling Up, Housing and Communities is expanding the Local Authority Housing Fund by £250 million. This innovative fund is helping councils to source homes to house Afghans currently in bridging accommodation.

Minister for Veterans’ Affairs, Johnny Mercer said:

I saw first-hand the invaluable contribution many Afghans made to the British military and our international partners, with many more standing by the UK to uphold democratic values. Others were fleeing genuine persecution and rightly came here through safe and legal routes.

Our commitment to the people of Afghanistan is unwavering, and our new plan, complete with new funding, will speed up the resettlement of Afghans into suitable, long-term housing so they can successfully make Britain their home and find the certainty that brings.

We all owe a huge debt of gratitude to the people of Afghanistan, and I would encourage a whole of society effort to help them rebuild their lives here.

In addition, the government has partnered with Britain’s largest housebuilders Barratt Developments and local authorities to provide more than 20 new 4-bedroom homes across the country to support Afghan families. The first two families have moved into homes in Yorkshire with the rest to follow in the next few weeks including new homes in areas including Bedfordshire, Kent, Somerset and Shropshire.

The government will aim to build on this pilot – the Homes Partnership Model – by working with Barratt Developments and further homebuilders to lease properties for Afghans for a few years to start their resettlement journey.

Housing Minister Felicity Buchan said:

We remain committed to doing all we can to support those brave Afghans who have found shelter in the UK.

It is right that we help these Afghans properly put down roots – committing to employment and integrating into communities – which is why the government is expanding the Local Authority Housing Fund to help councils provide homes for them.

This is a national effort, so I am delighted to see Barratt Developments stepping up and also offering homes to our Afghan friends – a fine example to other large housebuilders.

Minister for Immigration, Robert Jenrick said:

Many of these Afghans risked their lives to support the UK – it is right we do all we can to support them as they build their new lives here.

Bridging hotels, although safe and secure, were never meant for long-term living – with the uncertainty limiting the ability of families to put down roots in the UK.

The new support and funding announced today will give families the support they need to transition into settled accommodation so they can enjoy the freedoms of living independently;

Dedicated staff, including Home Office Liaison Officers, DWP work coaches, council staff and charities, will be regularly based in hotels to provide advice to Afghans, including providing information on how to rent in the private sector, helping people find jobs and signposting available English language instruction. Translated guidance will be provided and a helpline is also available for Afghans who arrived under ARAP and ACRS.

Afghans arriving in the UK on ACRS or ARAP have also had the right to work and receive benefits from the first day of their arrival, as well as access to public services.

The government will issue guidance to individuals and families in bridging accommodation in April, detailing what will happen next and the extensive support available to them, before writing to Afghans from the end of April notifying them of when their hotel will be closing. This process will be staggered, with a notice period of three months, and people will be notified at different times to ensure that there is not a disproportionate demand for housing in one area.

Support to find housing for Afghans in the UK under ARAP and ACRS has already helped around 9,000 people into settled accommodation but more needs to be done to help the remaining 8,000 still living in 59 bridging hotels.

Supporting Afghans’ access to housing represents value for money for the UK taxpayer making sure extensive support is in place for people while helping to reduce the use of hotels, which costs around £1 million per day to house Afghans.

Future UK arrivals will go directly into appropriate accommodation in order to successfully integrate into their new homes and have the stability that comes with a permanent place to live.

The government is committed to improving the lives of those Afghans resettled here and will continue to support them and help them successfully make the UK their home and is encouraging everyone in society to play their part, such as through offers of employment or assisting with integration.

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The original publication date of this post was March 29, 2023 8:58 am