UK Local Councils Warn of Ukrainian Refugees Becoming Homeless

UK Local Councils Warn of Ukrainian Refugees Becoming Homeless
A sign welcoming Ukrainian refugees at St Pancras station in London, England, on April 4, 2022. (Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)
Lily Zhou

Ukrainian refugees whose UK accommodation fell through need to be matched with new sponsors, local councils said, as they see “a concerning increase” in homeless Ukrainian arrivals.

Councillor James Jamieson, chairman of the Local Government Association (LGA) on Friday said local councils need information on the arrivals, fundings, and clearer guidance in order to help the refugees in need of housing.

Under the UK’s Ukraine Family Scheme, which opened after the Russian invasion of Ukraine, immediate or extended Ukrainian family members of UK nationals and residents can apply to come and stay in the UK.

A separate Ukraine Sponsorship Scheme, also known as Homes for Ukraine, allows willing applicants to sponsor Ukrainians and provide them with a home.

According to Home Office data published on Thursday, the two schemes had received 79,800 visa applications, and 40,900 visas had been issued.
PA Graphics
PA Graphics

However, some families who arrived under the family visa scheme were put in hotels because their relatives are unable or unwilling to house them, and dozens of matches under the Homes for Ukraine scheme are understood to have broken down, with local authorities having to put families in emergency accommodation while they wait to find a new sponsor.

In a survey published on April 1, the LGA said by the end of March, 57 councils had been approached by a total of 144 Ukrainian households who had become homeless, including 44 from households under the Ukraine Family Scheme, 36 under the Homes for Ukraine Scheme, and 64 where the scheme was not known or reported.

The LGA said a large majority (70 percent) of councils that responded to the survey reported zero homelessness, but only 63 percent of the councils responded to the survey, suggesting the number of homeless could be higher.

The British Red Cross also said it has had to fund some short-term accommodation as an emergency measure and referred people to homeless charities, local authorities, and housing associations due to problems getting funds or accommodation.

Jamieson said local councils need to be told in advance who is arriving under the family scheme and given funding so they can support them.

“Clarity also remains needed on safeguarding and housing checks under the Homes for Ukraine scheme and councils need clearer guidance on the next steps if the accommodation and safeguarding checks find a match that is not suitable and when sponsor arrangements break down or simply end,” he said.

“Councils are already seeing a concerning increase in homelessness presentations from Ukraine arrivals— including those who have arrived via the family scheme and where the families’ accommodation is not suitable or the relationship has broken down shortly after arrival—and lone children arriving in the UK needing support.”

Jamieson said the new arrivals whose sponsorship break down “should be able to be rematched with a different sponsor” so they can “swiftly move to other accommodation” and rebuild their lives.

The British Red Cross also said more work is needed to iron out other kinks in the system.

Alex Fraser, British Red Cross director of refugee support and restoring family links, said the charity is “increasingly concerned about the access to information about support people are receiving when they arrive.”

“We’re seeing an increasing number of calls to our support line from Ukrainians struggling to get cash and housing, and British families desperate to help but being prevented by the system,” Fraser said.

Citing a mother and her five children as an example, the charity said the family was put up in a hotel by a council after arriving under the family visa scheme, but couldn’t set up a bank account without proof of address, and in turn couldn’t complete an application for universal credit.

They were advised to go to their local Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) office, which is at least three miles away and would take nearly an hour to reach by foot as they do not have money for public transport.

When they arrived, the DWP suggested the younger children wait outside during the appointment, but the charity said staff supporting the family were able to stop this from happening.

PA Media contributed to this report.
Lily Zhou is an Irish-based reporter covering UK news for The Epoch Times.
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