UNISON local government members supporting refugees

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2016 Local Government Service Group Conference
25 February 2016
Carried as Amended

Conference is pleased to note that funding for refugee resettlement is to be increased. Whilst this targeted funding is welcome, it also raises concerns for staff working in local government who are already under extreme pressure from cuts in local government jobs and services, allied with increased demand from existing service users.

Conference believes that the UK has both a moral and legal obligation under international and EU law to receive refugees, and must ensure that provision is made through a properly resourced and funded resettlement programme.

UNISON nationally lobbied for such a programme, and the Westminster government has finally committed additional funding from the overseas aid budget to assist local authorities with the first year costs of settling the most vulnerable Syrian refugees, with potential for further funding for some high-cost cases. Reserved funding has also been agreed in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales, to assist with the growing crisis.

Refugees seeking resettlement will often have complex needs, in addition to the most obvious financial, family and housing assistance. They will face language and cultural barriers, and local government staff may need to provide or resource specialist support for disabilities, injuries and trauma experienced.

Local government staff working within the resettlement programme and related departments may not be fully equipped to deal with this range of needs. Lack of training and under-resourcing of local government will inevitably create further workplace stress, with consequences for our members’ personal health, their sickness absence record and potentially their future employment.

Conference therefore calls upon the local government service group executive to work with the relevant employer organisations and appropriate government departments and agencies to ensure that the necessary training, staffing levels and specialist support services are provided to ensure that staff are not placed under unacceptable pressure in delivering this crucial support to refugees.