A successful resettlement scheme which has helped dozens of refugees start new lives in County Durham could continue, if councillors give the go-ahead.

Since 2016, 259 people fleeing violence have settled in the county thanks to the initiative, which has been held up as a national example of best practice.

Now members of Durham County Council’s Cabinet will be asked to agree to support more vulnerable families by extending the scheme for another four years, provided funding continues to be made available.

The initiative is run with the support of a range of partners including clinical commissioning groups, County Durham Housing Forum, the voluntary and community sector, North East Regional Faiths Network, North East Churches Acting Together and Durham City of Sanctuary.

Cllr Angela Surtees, Durham County Council’s Cabinet member for social inclusion, said: “Working with our partners, we have supported 56 families in creating new lives in County Durham since the launch of the resettlement scheme.

“While our success has been cited as an example of best practice nationally, what’s more important is that the families have been welcome to our area and are flourishing, securing employment, achieving outstanding exam results and even receiving awards for excellence.

“However, with more than 68 million people around the world forced from their homes and nearly 25.4 million refugees recognised as fleeing persecution at the present time, it is important that we continue to extend the hand of friendship to those in need.”

The resettlement scheme was initially launched following an appeal by the Home Office to help 20,000 refugees caught up in the crisis in Syria, with any costs incurred being covered by the government.

Now it has confirmed that the UK will consolidate its main resettlement schemes into a global programme from April this year in order to better respond to international crises and is again calling on local authorities for support.

The council and its partners are keen to continue providing support in County Durham. Councillors are, therefore, being asked to agree to participate in the new global scheme over the next four years, with the number of people accommodated proportionate to the county’s share of the national population.

Agreement would also be subject to the government confirming funding arrangements in line with the current programme.

Cabinet is due to meet at County Hall on Wednesday, 15th January.