Members of the Diocesan Refugee response working group set up by Bishop Philip include Father Peter Hollins (Pastoral Care Services), Father John Lee (Head of Chaplaincies) and David Lawes (Department of Administration)
At Bishop Philip’s request, the Diocesan Refugee Response Working Group has been set up to see how the Diocese and parishes can best assist the Syrian refugees arriving in this country in the next five years, as well as prepare the community for them. This group has so far met on three occasions.
A number of ideas have been proposed but it is difficult to make firm plans when there is, as yet, little information available. Initial accommodation will be paid for by the Government through local councils. It is unclear where accommodation will be found, as most areas in the South East already have long waiting lists, but some local councils have been appealing for landlords to let properties which are not already in rental to the refugees. These bona fide Syrian refugees will be entitled to Jobseekers Allowance and other benefits, including housing benefit and council tax benefit, to enable them to start their life in this new country. It is not known whether other needs will be met, such as provision of English lessons, help with integration into British society, assistance with job finding and psychological care. Families are arriving destitute and need help with start up costs to enable them to quickly build up the basic requirements of life in the UK – beds, bedding, warm clothing, kitchen items, furniture and so on. These are areas in which the Diocese and the parishes can definitely help.
As we know that there will be additional financial needs, it would be useful to start raising money now. There is also work to be done in persuading those who are currently opposed to the idea of accepting refugees that it is our Christian duty to help those exiled from their homes, their country, their friends and their culture.
If your parish or local area is already planning or doing something towards helping and supporting refugees, please let us know. Please also contact us if you have skills which you would be willing to offer the new arrivals – such as teaching English as a foreign language, psychology, relevant language skills (Arabic, Kurdish, French or other regional languages), willingness to drive, practical skills like carpentry or anything which you think could help. You can contact the working group via firstname.lastname@example.org or 01730 262 290.
We promise to keep you up to date on the work of the working group and on what we can all do to support these people who need our help.
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