COUNCILS across Essex are making progress in securing homes for Afghan refugee families now resident in the county, a new Afghan Refugee Housing Task Force has heard.
The Task Force was set up last month to ensure that suitable, sustainable housing is found for Afghan refugees across the county which may include those who are currently in Home Office ‘bridging’ accommodation and to begin preparing the Essex, Southend and Thurrock response to the Government Afghan Citizens’ Resettlement Scheme.
At its first meeting the Task Force, Chaired by Essex County Council Leader Kevin Bentley, heard how bringing forward the right sort of housing options was a challenge given the nature of housing in Essex and the size of Afghan families, meaning that larger homes are required from across the housing sector which are in short supply.
However, the task force also heard that 18 homes had so far been identified across the Essex County Council area, and a further 5 in Thurrock. One suitable property has been identified in Southend-on-Sea. This is currently being matched to a family, with more homes being looked at.
With an announcements expected from the Home Office imminently on additional support to enable local housing authorities to secure homes, Cllr Bentley was optimistic that the ‘Team Essex’ approach, which also links with government departments including the Home Office and the Department for Work and Pensions would pay off.
He said: “Councils in Essex are committed to making sure we provide all the help and support we can to the Afghan families who risked so much to help British forces and other vulnerable Afghans who had to flee their home country.
“Our mission is to secure the right sort of housing to ensure they get the best possible start to life in the UK.
“Some private landlords have already contacted the councils who lead on the property identification across Essex, and prior to the mass evacuation from Afghanistan the ‘Team Essex’ approach enabled some families to move into their new homes, so we now need to build on that start, and that is what the Task Force will help us do.”
If you wish to consider making an offer of a property please contact your local council responsible for housing or alternatively access the Government Afghan Housing Portal: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/afghanistan-housing-portal-offers-of-support
Epping Forest District Council is one of many councils supporting the County partnership.
EFDC’s Housing Portfolio Holder, Councillor Holly Whitbread, said: “Everyone is trying to do their bit. While other areas are providing temporary hotel accommodation, we are one of a number of councils to find permanent resettlement properties under the Afghan Relocations and Assistance Policy for families that worked with British forces in Afghanistan. We have two properties on offer to the Home Office for suitable families and we will continue to see how we can help in other ways.”
Cllr Ian Gilbert, leader of Southend-on-Sea Borough Council, said: “The local community response to support vulnerable Afghan families has been astonishing, as have the efforts of council officers, the local business community and the Park Inn hotel who have been housing so many families in the bridging accommodation.“Our efforts are also focused on securing the right types of housing for those who will make Southend-on-Sea their home, and I delighted that we are represented on this task force. I would urge local private landlords who may be able to help to get in touch with our housing team.”