203Details of how County Durham could support the national response to the Syrian refugee crisis will be put before councillors next week.

Members of Durham County Council’s Cabinet will be asked to consider proposals setting out the level of support that could be offered to people fleeing war-torn Syria.

The proposals have been developed by the Durham Humanitarian Support Partnership, which was set up in September to consider County Durham’s ability to provide assistance and to ensure the organisations involved can work together effectively.

It followed the Government’s announcement that the UK would take an additional 20,000 Syrian refugees by 2020, with priority being given to the most vulnerable, including children.

The partnership, which is chaired by the county council, is working with churches, the voluntary sector and other partners to look at the needs refugees may have, including housing, food, health, education, translation services and community support.

Under the proposals being put to councillors, County Durham would agree to take refugees, with a focus on family groups, over the next five years.

An evaluation would be carried out within 12 months of the first group of refugees arriving in the county to see how effective this had been in order to help determine whether additional people could be accommodated.

Cllr Eddie Tomlinson, Cabinet member for assets, strategic housing and rural issues at Durham County Council, said: “We have already pledged our support to this national effort to help refugees escaping from war and persecution in Syria.

“We have had a number of approaches from local people offering to provide accommodation, host a family or to provide clothes, toiletries and bedding.

“At a time when many families here are experiencing hardship themselves, these offers of support to some of the world’s most vulnerable and desperate people is heartening.

“The proposals being put before Cabinet set out the level of support which the partnership feels can be offered in County Durham.

“They recognise that we do not have significant experience of relocating vulnerable refugees in the area and take into account our current ability to support and accommodate people.”

Cabinet will be asked to agree the proposed response to the Syrian Vulnerable Persons Relocation Scheme when they meet next Wednesday (16 Dec).

The Government will work with councils to put in place the necessary arrangements to support and accommodate refugees and will meet full cost in the first year with funding tapering over the next four years.

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