THE team behind a temporary housing scheme for new refugees have welcomed a decision to introduce a new council tax policy for their hosts.

Concerns had been raised over fears that people living alone and providing a home for a refugee could lose the single person council tax discount and be financially penalised for their generosity.

When an asylum seeker is granted leave to remain in the UK - often after a lengthy and uncertain wait - there is only a very short window between hearing the news and losing the modest financial and accommodation support provided by the Home Office.

A joyous occasion can quickly turn to one of worry and panic as they realise the safety net they have relied on will come to an end.

It often takes longer than the 28 days they’re given to secure a National Insurance number to be able to work, let alone save for a deposit on a flat or a room.

Last year the Adver reported that 46 new refugee households had fallen into homelessness in the past 10 years as a result.

But now, thanks to the ‘Room for All’ hosting scheme set up by the Swindon City of Sanctuary group, a network of host families and individuals stand ready to open their doors for short periods to help these new refugees through their transition to living securely.

The scheme has been running for a three month pilot period and is expected to be rolled out on a long term basis soon.

It was during the scheme’s pilot period that the single person council tax anomaly emerged.

“We were concerned they would be asked to pay more in council tax while hosting a refugee,” said SCOS development worker Nicola Wood. “The hosts aren’t only helping destitute refugees, they’re also reducing the strain on other services at the same time.

“Initially the council said they would lose the single person discount because of the extra person living there. But now they have decided to change the policy so people can keep it, which is great.

“It will last for three months which is fine because most of the guests don’t stay that long. It’s normally only a short period of time until they can get an NI number to work.”

Under the new policy, a person receiving a single person discount on their council tax would still be able to claim it if they were hosting a refugee who was in the country legally but who did not have an NI number and the ability to earn their own income.

Russell Holland, deputy leader of Swindon Borough Council and the cabinet member for finance, said: “The UK has a longstanding tradition of assisting refugees and I’m pleased to be able to support people offering a home to a refugee.

"I would like to thank Coun Paul Dixon for raising this issue. I’m pleased it is receiving support from all political parties.”

Coun Dixon (Lab, Eastcott) said: “I contacted Coun Holland to ask for this to be looked into after the SCOS group made me aware of an anomaly in the system which was effectively discouraging single people from doing a charitable act.

“I’d like to thank Coun Holland for recognising this issue and addressing it. And I would particularly like to thank SCOS for drawing this important matter to our attention.”