In the report, the Committee commends central government, local authorities and other partners in the Syrian Vulnerable Persons Resettlement programme for their efforts to date.
However, it finds there is a lack of clarity around responsibilities and entitlements under the programme which could threaten its success in the long-term.
In particular, the Committee is concerned that some councils – which volunteer to participate in the programme – are confused about what they are expected to provide to refugees and exactly how this should be funded.
Some refugees are uncertain about what they are entitled to, and what is expected of them, and it is “not yet clear whether survivors of torture or violence are getting the specialist help they need”.
The Committee calls on the Home Office to regularly review the number of remaining indicative pledges made by councils to resettle refugees.
It should work with those councils to ensure they are able to provide firm offers of support and “more clearly specify what local authorities are expected to provide to refugees to address any current disparities or confusion”.
Meg Hillier MP, Chair of the PAC, said:
“Syrians now make up the largest refugee population in the world and the UK is playing its part in helping people who are truly desperate.
While the programme team was right to take a fresh look at the programme last year, more work is needed to make it sustainable in the longer term.
This is a voluntary programme, but one with significant ambition, and it is vital councils’ initial pledges of help translate into firm offers of accommodation, support and services for refugees.
Central government must carefully monitor this process and also be clearer with local authorities, already wrestling with significant financial challenges, about what they are expected to take on.
More must also be done to ensure refugees understand the programme, not least their entitlements and restrictions.
It is a stark fact that more than half of the refugees resettled under the programme by the end of June last year had suffered torture or violence and it is critical that such people receive specialist support.
Our Committee has previously highlighted the shortcomings in access to mental health services and we call on the Government to ensure a plan is in place to properly support refugees in need of them.
It is important to recognise the efforts and achievements of those bodies involved in the early part of this programme, which resettled 1,000 refugees before Christmas 2015. But there is a long way to go.
The programme can only succeed and deliver value for money long-term if the Government is properly able to evaluate its success and adjust its provisions accordingly.
It must set out detailed plans for this now or risk failing those refugees it is intended to support, as well as undermining public perceptions of the programme’s benefits.”