VOLUNTEERS have been ‘invaluable’ in helping resettle Syrian refugees, according to a report.

Dorset County Council’s people and communities overview and scrutiny committee is set to discuss a report on the resettlement programme on Monday.

Two families arrived in the county in December last year, having fled the war-torn country, and another five families are expected to arrive by December 2017.

The county council’s cabinet agreed to house six to eight Syrian families in Dorset in June last year as part of the government’s pledge to resettle 20,000 Syrians by the end of 2020 across the UK.

The programme is fully funded by the government and after five years, the refugees can see whether they are able to remain in the UK, or return to Syria, depending on the situation.

Local authorities are expected to provide private rented accommodation, English lessons, school places and see to medical needs.

The report, by head of design and development Patrick Myers, states that the voluntary and community sector has been ‘invaluable in the delivery of this programme’.

It adds: “The support offered by the voluntary and community sector has allowed the programme to support the families in a much wider way than would have been available otherwise. Through connections made via volunteers one individual has started training as a barber.

“The schools taking children arriving through the programme have responded positively and proactively. They have supported the children and wider family unit offering English support and are working together to bring in a former English teacher from Syria who can help the children and teachers learn together. 

“The children have made friends and are actively participating in extra-curricular activities.”

But there are some areas where improvement is needed, according to the report.

It states that housing has been ‘the most difficult issue’.

Writing in the report Mr Myers said: “It needs to be within the Local Housing Allowance and near to public transport links to appropriate services. Dorset Councils Partnership has been an invaluable partner to identifying properties that could be used for this programme and the programme can be expanded to include housing partners from other district and borough councils.”

The provision of registered English as a Second Language (ESOL) providers has also been an issue, with the report stating this has ‘not been as flexible as anticipated and there have been transport and childcare restrictions’.

The report concludes: “Guidance will be sought from cabinet about our approach to Home Office requests for plans up to 2020 and how we take this important work forward in Dorset.”