16.The Home Office (the Department) recognised that the success of the programme is not simply about moving 20,000 people from one location to another, but about enabling them to integrate effectively into the UK, or, if the civil war ends, to allow them to return to Syria if they wish to do so. The Department has identified the categories against which it plans to measure success, for example refugees’ progress with English, secondary migration and employment, but it has yet to determine what it aims to achieve against each of these categories. The Department was not able to tell us, for example, the proportion of refugees it expected to achieve which level of English language at the end of the programme, or what proportion of the working-age population in the 20,000 it would expect to be working by when.
17.The Department has not established a baseline for the programme against which to judge progress, but accepted that it needed to establish this as soon as possible given that the expanded programme has been in operation for over a year. The Department told us that the larger number of people involved in the programme compared to previous resettlement programmes, and the uncertainty around the characteristics of those who will be resettled, made setting a baseline for the programme challenging. Other countries, such as Canada, Australia and Germany, are more experienced in delivering resettlement at scale. The UK Gateway Protection Programme, in comparison, resettles less than 1,000 people per year. The Department also told us that the characteristics of the people being resettled in the UK as part of the programme are different to those of traditional asylum seekers in the UK and they therefore have different needs. Around 90% of those who apply for asylum in the UK are already resident in the UK. In comparison, the Syrian programme is only open to refugees registered with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Jordan, Iraq, Egypt, Lebanon, or the government in Turkey and who meet one or more of UNHCR’s criteria for vulnerable groups. The Department told us that it was working with international partners to determine the baseline for the programme and what it will need to measure to determine success and whilst its plans were at an early stage it will write to us before Christmas 2016 with details of the first evaluation scheme and early thoughts on its next steps for evaluation.
18.Secondary migration, where individuals or groups move from one area within the UK to another, will be particularly important to help understand the early success of the programme, but challenging to measure. The support provided to refugees requires them to stay in the local authority they have been resettled to. If refugees leave the local authority after, for example, their first year in the UK, neither their original local authority, nor the local authority they move to, will receive the local authority tariff for their second to fifth years in the UK. Some refugees may move because they have gained employment and no longer need financial support from their local authority. Others, however, might leave after their first year in the UK because they are no longer receiving the support they need from their local authority as the amount paid through the local authority tariff decreases. We asked the Department how it would measure such a fluid set of circumstances. The Department committed to looking at the patterns across local authorities to determine the extent of secondary migration and ensure that the programme was working properly.
19.Most of those who are resettled in the UK as part of the programme do not have a high enough level of English to be self-sufficient in the UK. Local authorities are responsible for ensuring that refugees have access to English language classes during their first year in the UK. The local authority tariff has been used to provide refugees with around four hours of English language tuition per week. Refugees and organisations supporting them have said that this is insufficient to allow refugees to learn English quickly enough or to a detailed enough level to allow them to integrate into their communities or access services without interpreters. Learning English is essential to refugees being able to integrate and communicate with their local communities and service providers and an important part of gaining employment and becoming economically active.
20.In September 2016, the Department announced that it would make an additional £10 million available for English language classes, £5 million of reallocated money from an underspend in the programme’s budget, and £5 million from the Department for Education. The Department told us that the funding would be used to invest in people early with a view to achieving long-term benefits such as refugees being able to engage with, and integrate into their local communities, or become economically active. In part, the funding will be used to provide an additional six hours of classes per week during refugees’ first three to six months in the UK. The Department told us that it recognised that the programme would bring refugees into a range of locations, including those who are not familiar with welcoming people who don’t speak English. The funding will therefore also be used to provide regional co-ordinators to share and bring together best practice and explore more innovative approaches to helping refugees learn English, such as buddying.
21.More than half of the refugees resettled as part of the programme up to the end of June 2016 were survivors of torture and/or violence. We received written evidence from Freedom from Torture, a registered charity and human rights organisation dedicated to the treatment and rehabilitation of survivors of torture who seek refuge in the UK. It told us that it was concerned that people taking part in the programme who were survivors of torture were not gaining access to the specialist services they need to recover from their traumatic experiences. Despite being the largest torture rehabilitation organisation in the country, only a handful of people from the programme have been referred to Freedom from Torture for assessment or rehabilitation services. The organisation was therefore concerned that the mental health needs of the vast majority of those who are survivors of torture were not being identified, or that they were being allocated to areas of the country where specialist support was not available. Our previous report on access to mental health services similarly found that a high proportion of people with mental health conditions do not have access to the care that they need. Only around a quarter of those estimated to need mental health services have access to them. Good access to mental health services for all patients is important. Many people can make a full recovery if they receive appropriate treatment when they need it and at an early stage.
22.The Department told us that it shares information about refugees’ experiences and mental health conditions with local authorities if it receives this information prior to refugees’ arrival in the UK, but that it is up to local authorities to make sure that the relevant support and services are in place. It can be difficult to identify whether refugees are survivors of torture in advance of their arrival in the UK as they may be concerned about revealing their experiences to a stranger, or might think it could affect their ability to resettle. The Department told us that it worked with local authorities to make sure that any information was treated in an appropriately confidential way and that local authorities were able to fully consider whether they could provide the services required. It also told us that it worked with local authorities once refugees had arrived in the UK to help them deal with cases where it only becomes apparent an individual is a survivor of torture after their arrival.
41 , para 4.15–4.16
42 , Refugee Council ()
43 , paras 2.5 and 2.7
44 , Home Office ()
49 , para 3.13
50 para 3.13
51 , para 3.14
52 , Footnote 20
55 , Freedom from Torture (), Figure 8, para 4.9
4 January 2017