New guidance issued to housing staff working with refugees

Scottish Refugee CouncilA new guide to ensure refugees’ right to quality accommodation is upheld has been issued to housing professionals.

Published by the Scottish Refugee Council with the support of the Scottish Government and the Chartered Institute of Housing Scotland, the updated guide aims to ensure that all refugees and asylum seekers in Scotland are treated with dignity and fairness.

The guide is aimed at housing practitioners working in Scottish local authorities, housing associations and the third sector who are assisting the integration of asylum seekers and/or refugees. It provides essential information about people’s rights and entitlements in relation to housing, homelessness and welfare benefits. It also includes guidance and examples of good practice aimed at reducing homelessness among refugees, increasing housing options and improving tenancy sustainment.

The guide will help all housing professionals ensure they are fully aware of not only the rights of refugees and asylum seekers but also refugees’ strengths and the important contribution refugees can make to communities. It reflects the many changes that have taken place in asylum policy over recent years including the transfer of the responsibility for accommodating asylum seekers away from local authorities to private contractors and the extension in 2015 of the Syrian Vulnerable Person’s Resettlement Programme.

Jamie Stewart, housing development officer at Scottish Refugee Council, said: “For many people in the asylum system, the accommodation they receive on arrival in Scotland is the first safe place of shelter they have known in years.

“A safe, secure home is so fundamentally important for all of us but especially so for people who are new to Scotland and trying to navigate their way through complicated systems and may be recovering from torture, trauma and violent human rights abuses.

Out new guide for housing professionals will help practitioners continue to deliver their important, life-changing work in supporting refugees to integrate into Scottish society and reach their potential as new Scots.”

Minister for local government and housing Kevin Stewart said: “Scotland is proud to welcome refugees as we recognise the significant contribution they make to diversifying and strengthening our communities.

“Giving refugees access to good quality housing is a crucial part of the resettlement process and the publication of this guide will support the integration of refugees across Scotland.

“It will help the housing sector know and understand the rights of refugees, and ensure that refugees have a safe and secure place to stay.”

Marian Reid, deputy director at CIH Scotland, added: “Moving to a new home can be stressful at the best of times. When people arrive in our country through difficult and dangerous circumstances, front line housing staff play a key role in helping them access the support and services they need. This timely guidance will assist them in doing their best for the asylum seekers and refugees they are working with.”

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