An action plan which will outline how County Durham will support the UK response to the Syrian refugee crisis is to be developed by a new partnership.
The Durham Humanitarian Support Partnership will be led by the county council and will meet as a matter of urgency to clarify and progress the part Durham will play in responding to the emergency.
The partnership will look at all needs families seeking refuge in the county may have including housing, food, health, education, translation services and community support.
It will also seek to work with churches, the voluntary sector and other partners to identify what help may be required and how it should be provided.
The approach is designed not just to enable the vital preparations to be made, but to ensure that the families arriving here, many of whom will have experienced desperate situations, experience the best possible welcome.
In the first instance the county council will invite a range of partners to join the discussions to make sure all areas are represented in the partnership.
The chair of Durham Humanitarian Support Partnership is Cllr Eddie Tomlinson, who is also the council’s cabinet member with responsibility for assets, homelessness, housing and rural issues.
Speaking ahead of the first meeting, Cllr Tomlinson said: “We have already expressed our commitment to play our part in responding to what is a desperately sad situation impacting on nations and neighbours across Europe.
“We are therefore taking immediate action to support this specific situation by launching a partnership which we believe will deliver the best possible outcome for the families needing our help.
“While we have systems and processes in place already to meet the needs of refugees requiring our help –the numbers have been extremely small and the current crisis requires a very targeted and specialised response.”
The partnership will include a cross-party member/officer working group and a raft of other organisations and agencies which are well equipped to support the initiative.
Further details will released as decisions are made.
The county council also awaits clarification from Government regarding details such as how many families require the county’s support, any specific needs they may have and how the funding arrangements will operate.