Hosts who have sponsored refugees to come to the UK under the Homes for Ukraine scheme say they have received “next to no help” as Ukrainian guests have been left stranded in their homes with no way of moving on.
Under the Homes for Ukraine scheme, sponsors are encouraged to host refugees fleeing the war in Ukraine for a minimum of six months. But sponsors and refugees have been left in limbo due to a lack of support once the initial hosting period has come to an end.
A couple hosting a Ukrainian mum and her teenage daughter in the North West, who wanted to remain anonymous, said: “As hosts, we feel hugely let down. There is simply no help in enabling our guests to move on, meaning that we had no option but to extend the invite beyond six months, and even a year may not be long enough.
“The consequence is that we will be very reluctant to respond to future schemes. Some sensible forward planning would have avoided this, and would avoid similar experiences in the future, but we see absolutely no evidence that the Government is doing any such thing.”
Refugees at Home, which has supported sponsors to house Ukrainians after the numbers of hosts on its register rose from 2000 in 2021 to 12,000 in 2022, said the response to the scheme demonstrates hosting can work but important lessons need to be learnt.
The charity’s survey of 400 sponsors found a quarter of hosts whose guests were still staying with them said they were looking to move on, but only 14 per cent said they had support in relation, while 39 per cent said they had no help at all.
Lauren Scott, executive director of Refugees at Home, said: “Hosting requires support and guidance. Expecting hosts to help their guests obtain their visa, settle in and navigate our complex social services and other systems, as well as sharing their homes, without any back-up or advice, is just not realistic. The increasing numbers of Ukrainians presenting as homeless points to a high level of breakdown among placements overall. Providing a better framework of support would lead to far fewer of these catastrophic outcomes.”
The level of assistance councils provide varies with some offering training and advertising support services, while other councils don’t even have contact details on their website, Refugees at Home said.
Ms Scott said: “It was clear from the outset that Ukrainians could not stay in strangers’ homes for ever and yet in many local authorities there is next to no help for hosts and guests who want to move on. So guests are left in a limbo with no idea of what is going to happen, and without clearer guidance and a more consistent framework from central government, no one can do much about this.”
It’s anticipated that issues and inconsistencies will be exacerbated as the funding councils receive per guest in 2023 is halved to £5,000.
Huntingdon District Council is among a number of local authorities that is calling for more people to become sponsors. It has issued an urgent appeal for residents with extra room in their homes to come forward.
A spokesperson for Huntingdon District Council said: “We are concerned that there is no funding beyond the first year for councils to support Ukrainians and funding for arrivals in 2023 has halved. We want to work with government to review funding to ensure all families are helped to find permanent homes, jobs and schools.”
“As we pass the one-year anniversary of the invasion of Ukraine, we have some hosts coming to the end of their agreed sponsorship period, so are looking for additional people to come forward.”
A spokesperson for the Local Government Association told i: “Councils are very aware of the strain the current situation in Ukraine must be having on families and individuals in the UK and are working incredibly hard with local partners to help meet the needs of guests and hosts.
“Previous asylum and refugee resettlement schemes have shown integration and achieving independence via jobs, wellbeing and language support is a long-term challenge for some new arrivals. Some councils are facing competing priorities and pressures within already overstretched resources to help support the crucial sponsor relationship and to help people move on when they wish or have to.”