The war in Ukraine has left millions of people homeless, shelling their homes and turning them into refugees compelled to flee their country in fear of their lives. Neighbouring countries have taken them in without asking for a visa, just to offer safety. And the UK government has created the “Homes for Ukraine” scheme. But how does it work and what are the consequences for individuals wanting to open their homes, and for the councils they live in?
What does this scheme entail?
People in the UK have to register their details if they want and are able to offer a room for at least six months (possibly 12). Then they have to find the name of a person or persons (Ukrainian refugees) they want to offer this accommodation to. Both the person offering accommodation and the Ukrainian refugee/s (together) have to apply for a visa and, finally, IF it is granted (after security checks), the refugee/s can come over.
The householder gets £350 per month (per address, not per refugee) for six months to help with the extra cost of food, heating, clothing and everything else that is needed, although they are not actually expected to provide food and/or clothing, just a room.
The council they live in gets £10,500 per refugee as a one-off payment to help with any costs they have, such as background checks on hosts. The council is expected to give the refugee a one-off amount of £200 for subsistence. Schooling for children and NHS care is included, and the council is expected to help refugees register at the job centre. The council is also responsible for giving the host £350 per month, although it is unsure if this comes out of the £10,500.
Benefit payments or council tax discounts for the hosting individual are not supposed to be There is a useful page with FAQs about the scheme with an in-depth explanation of how it works.affected. Refugees are allowed to start work or claim benefits.
There is a useful page with FAQs about the scheme with an in-depth explanation of how it works.
So what hurdles are we facing?
The first problem: not many of us know any Ukrainians who are in need of a place to stay. So how do you find someone to sponsor?
There are charities such as Reset hoping to match refugees with hosts, and UK residents can register their interest via Reset’s newly created website. Some professional organisations such as the BVA (British Veterinary Association) have set up schemes to help professionals who have now become refugees find space with people of the same profession, hoping that means they can get help if they need to study for exams here in order to work. (The UK does not acknowledge all qualifications automatically, many will need to take a professional exam and a language exam to be allowed to practise their profession here).
The next stumbling block
You and the refugee will have to work together to apply for a visa. For refugees who may have a mobile phone with limited internet access (and that is if they are lucky), this can be a major problem. There are places where they can go to try and find help, and at least the government has at least made it possible to apply online (people applying for a family member visa will still have to apply at an embassy or consulate) – the charity Asylum Welcome has a very helpful information page.
But the visa applications are not easy and refugees are giving up because of it. An example of this can be seen on a Tweet by Jonathan Swain:
What is next?
If once you have managed to cross all these bridges, and a person or family comes to stay with you, what next? In the initial first few weeks you may well need help with food and clothes while the refugee/s are trying to find their feet. The £350 monthly will help with that, but you won’t get it straight away (it will be made in arrears, see the FAQ page. )
Any costs such as insurance and council tax should stay the same; (refugees will not be classed as tenants for insurance purposes, and any single person discount you have is supposed to stay the same.
North West Bylines contacted four councils about this; St Helens, Wigan and Manchester City councillors have confirmed this, and Liverpool has not got back to us yet. However, Norwich Council has already stated it will start charging the full amount after three months, so it is worth checking with your local council if they will be following government guidelines on this, as it can make a big difference financially.
Heating, electricity and other such costs may rise on top of the severe increases already happening, even in the first six (summer) months, because there will be additional costs to refugees if they are not provided with food and have to cook for themselves.
So why would we bother?
Because people have been chased out of their homes and their country, threatened with abduction or death. They need help, and we CAN help. What may be an inconvenience for us will be life-saving for others. So the question is not “why should we bother”, the question is “how could we not?”
While solutions are still needed for quite a few of the hurdles, it is up to all of us; we should all volunteer to help.
We need your help!
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