In response to the Syrian refugee crisis, the government introduced the Vulnerable persons relocation scheme for Syrian nationals (VPRS) in 2014. The scheme was significantly expanded in September 2015 when the then Prime Minister, David Cameron, pledged that Britain would take in 20,000 Syrians via the VPRS by 2020.
The registered charity, Citizens UK took a lead in pressing the government to allow local groups to play a bigger role in resettling refugees. One idea being urged on ministers was sponsorship of refugees, through which community groups take on the responsibility of welcoming, supporting and settling refugee families. Canada was the main inspiration. Through its Private Sponsorship of Refugees program, Canada has resettled more than 300,000 refugees since 1979.
In October 2015, the then Home Secretary, Theresa May, announced in her conference speech that the government would develop a community sponsorship scheme.
In March 2016, the first ever parliamentary meeting was held to build interest in sponsorship and by July 2016, the scheme was officially launched at Lambeth Palace. Since then a number of sponsoring groups have resettled refugee families in the UK. Many others have been established and are working towards welcoming families.
Introducing a new route for refugee resettlement has taken time, but the potential of sponsorship to transform the lives of refugees while also transforming local communities is tremendous.
One community that has already welcomed a family from Syria is in Greater Manchester. To watch a report of their story on their local ITV News click here.
There's a more detailed guide about community sponsorship, produced by the Home Office on this link and watch the video below to see other communities at work.
[Text on this page adapted from Citizens UK's Sponsor Refugees website.]