Leader of Hampshire County Council, Councillor Roy Perry has underlined the importance of a coordinated and strategic approach, working with local, regional and national partners if Hampshire is called on, as expected, to provide support to the European refugee crisis.
Commenting, Councillor Perry said: “Over recent weeks and especially since some of the dreadful images of children that have shocked the world, we have been very conscious of the role the County Council may be asked to play, in responding to the European migrant situation.”
“Since the Prime Minister announced that Britain should accept 20,000 refugees from Syria over the next five years, we have been seeking advice and guidance from Government, as well as an indication of where these refugees may be located and their numbers. Obviously, any response must be coordinated with our partner agencies, such as district councils, who are responsible for housing – to ensure that the overall support package offered in Hampshire is sustainable and effective.”
“I’m aware that a number of very public-spirited Hampshire residents have wanted to help and have approached various schemes to volunteer. I wholeheartedly applaud these people and their motivation, which I believe reflects a national tradition of supporting those most in need.”
“I also recognise that some residents may have genuine concerns about the financial implications should our support be needed over the longer-term, and what this might mean for public sector services which are already stretched. This is another reason why we need to ensure that a collaborative response is undertaken with Government and our partners.”
“In the meantime, Hampshire is taking a proactive stance in planning what our contribution may be; particularly as we expect many of the migrants to be unaccompanied children or orphans who would automatically become the responsibility of the County Council on their arrival in Hampshire – as children in our care.”
“Wider discussions are underway with our public sector and voluntary sector partners across the county, as well as those across the wider south east region, together with the Church and faith groups. For instance, I have been contacted by the Bishop of Winchester, and I know he is anxious that the Church plays what part it can. At this stage, we are working collectively with all partners to identify how best we can support children and families who may come to Hampshire as refugees.”
“Naturally, if Hampshire County Council is called upon by the Government to offer help during this crisis, we will do all we reasonably can to provide support and assistance, because morally it’s the right thing to do.”