The search is on to find six family sized homes in Powys as a scrutiny committee backs a UK Government scheme to re-home asylum seekers in the county.
The UK Government’s Home Office has called for assistance to accommodate asylum seekers arriving in the UK.
Powys County Council is considering supporting this request by working with Clearsprings Ready Homes, to find private sector accommodation across the county.
The accommodation is needed while applications for asylum are processed.
The Home Office has is asking for voluntary participation, but if insufficient offers are forthcoming, local authorities may be legally obliged to find or provide accommodation
Next month the Cabinet will decide whether or not to help the Home Office, and its contracted agent, Clearsprings Ready Homes find these six properties in Powys.
On Monday, October 18, at a meeting of the Economy, Residents and Communities scrutiny committee councillors discussed the proposal before it goes to Cabinet.
Committee chairman Cllr Mathew Dorrance said: “I welcome this proposal. I think it’s absolutely the right thing to do.”
Cllr Dorrance asked: “Are you confident that you can procure the houses in the right places?”
Steve Lakey of Clearsprings Ready Homes said: “We’re very much working with local authority partners and will agree the best search areas to look for property.”
Mr Lakey explained that work had already started to find out where there are available homes that fit the bill.
“We’re confident we can find them we’re not talking about large scale, but it’s not going to be easy, and it’s not going to happen overnight,” said Mr Lakey.
Adult social care and Welsh language portfolio holder Cllr Myfanwy Alexander said that the council would be helping provide the “data” to make sure the right decisions on location are taken.
Cllr Kath Roberts-Jones said: “Powys is an enormous county, are you going to try and accommodate them largely in one area rather than spreading them out?”
She believed that if asylum seekers were: “within a reasonable distance ” they could also help support each other.
Mr Lakey said: “The placement of the properties is absolutely essential.
“That’s why, we will be working in partnership with everybody with our voluntary sector partners with the Welsh strategic migration partnership and with local authorities, who will have that very local knowledge.
“It’s absolutely key to ensure that we don’t put people into isolation, where it’s not going to be helpful for them and make sure we get those placements right.”
Cllr Alexander added: “I think what’s most important about this is to centre on the the needs of the individual person.”
Cllr Alexander pointed out that this had been successfully done in Powys with people from Afghanistan and Syria in the past.
The committee said they support the principle that Powys should accommodate asylum seekers and will feed their comments into the report which will be discussed by Cabinet on Tuesday, November 2.
Statistics show that 35,099 asylum applications were received during 2020, an increase of 11 per cent on 2019.
This meant that by the end of June 2020 there were 45,769 asylum seekers in the UK receiving support.
Wales has provided accommodation for asylum seekers in four ‘Dispersal Areas’: Newport, Cardiff, Swansea and Wrexham.
The increase in demand now means that all Welsh local authorities are being asked to find accommodation.