Closure of refugee support unit sparks homelessness fears
Dale Spridgeon, local democracy reporter
Hundreds of vulnerable Ukrainian refugees are at “significant risk” of being left homeless if a Gwynedd support centre is closed, the council’s cabinet heard.
In a meeting of the cabinet on Tuesday (February 14), it was said that Gwynedd’s Refugee Resettlement Unit is to close. It’s understood that the centre accommodates refugees and tries to help them find host families.
The concerns were raised by the cabinet member for education Cllr Beca Brown and in a housing and property department report written by head Carys Fôn Williams and cabinet member for housing Cllr Craig ab Iago.
But on Wednesday (February 15), the Welsh Government told the Local Democracy Reporting Service that the closure of welcome centres was in fact part of “a concerted effort” to help Ukrainian people find long-term accommodation and was “not funding related”.
In Tuesday’s meeting, Cllr Brown said there was “a threat and risk to the work of the unit that resettles refugees”. She said: “I’m sure we are all interested in the work being done there. We have loved seeing the young children from Ukraine now speaking Welsh so well.
“I understand the centre is going to close. There’s an obvious risk to those refugees being housed by us. I am shocked to see as many as 200 individuals will have to present themselves as homeless.”
Carys Fôn Williams, head of housing and property, said: “Yes, it is a significant risk. We are collaborating with the Government as much as we can to try and get as much information with regard to what we should do when the resettlement centre is closed and the sponsor scheme ends.
“We are a bit vague now as to what our duties will be at that point. We will have to have some kind of system in place to support the refugees, but those discussions are currently ongoing with the Welsh Government.”
The housing report read: “The Government has stated that the centre will close in the next few months. There is a substantial risk these refugees will be made homeless if permanent accommodation cannot be found before this.
“Together with the Ukraine Sponsors scheme, it is estimated that ending both these schemes, the worst scenario, could add over 200 persons to our numbers who present as homeless.”
After the meeting, Cllr ab Iago said: “Not every county has a welcome centre. Ours is incredibly well run and inspiring.”
The council’s chief executive Dafydd Gibbard said an announcement was imminent from the Senedd, and hoped they would receive more support.
Longer term accommodation
A Welsh Government spokesperson confirmed on Wednesday that it would be “working closely” with Gwynedd Council and Clwyd Alyn Housing to ensure people can move into longer term accommodation.
“The closure of welcome centres is part of a concerted effort to help Ukrainian people move into longer term accommodation and is not funding related,” they said.
“People who are not able to move on into longer-term accommodation will be offered alternative accommodation. The partnership between Welsh Government, Gwynedd Council and Clwyd Alyn Housing continues to play a hugely successful role in safely welcoming Ukrainian people to Wales and assisting them move onto longer term accommodation.
“We are pleased to be providing sanctuary for so many people. This has been a huge Team Wales response to a terrible conflict.
“This partnership approach will continue as we support people to move on into longer-term accommodation – either to hosts or into private or social housing across Wales.”
On Wednesday, Carys Fôn Williams said: “We are awaiting an official decision by Welsh Government and partners for the future arrangements of the Welcome Centre.
“If there are changes to the current use of the site, the authority will need to ensure necessary provision will be put in place for alternative arrangements for those affected.”
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