Thousands of Homes for Ukraine Hosts Urge Rishi Sunak To Increase Refugee Support
Thousands of hosts have urged Rishi Sunak to increase support for Ukrainian refugees (Alamy)
Over 4,500 hosts in the government's flagship Homes for Ukraine scheme have signed a joint letter calling on the government to provide "practical solutions" to help refugees settle in the UK as fears grow over the risk of homelessness.
The petition, which is being delivered by hosts to Downing Street on Tuesday, urges the Prime Minister to "meet the compassion of the public with practical solutions" by increasing financial support to Ukrainian refugees and working with local authorities to act as guarantors for private rented accommodation.
Over 104,000 Ukrainian refugees have already arrived in the UK under the Homes for Ukraine scheme, which asked sponsors to house refugees for a minimum period of six months in return for a £350-a-month payment to help offset their costs.
But many of those who had fled Ukraine following Russia's invasion have struggled to secure independent accommodation in the UK as their six-month hosting arrangements come to an end.
A recent ONS study found that 45 per cent of Ukrainian refugees in the UK had reported facing barriers to accessing the private rented sector. High private rental costs, or landlords refusing to rent to people without a UK credit history are among common obstacles.
In the letter, which was organised by the Sanctuary Foundation charity, hosts said it was proving "almost impossible" for refugees to find their own homes because both the social and private housing sectors were "already stretched and difficult to access".
"Since the war in Ukraine began on the 24th February 2022, our hearts have gone out to the Ukrainian people – so much so that when you gave us the opportunity to host those fleeing war and terror, we willingly opened up our homes and our lives," they wrote.
"Those who were just acquaintances, or strangers to us, have now become our friends. Indeed, for many of us, our guests have become like family."
They added: "As hosts who care deeply about the future of the Ukrainians in our homes, we ask the government to help us ensure they are able to take the next steps towards integration in our communities."
Among the requests, the group urged the government to top up the Universal Credit housing allowance for an initial period of 12 months to allow refugees to stay in the areas where they have already settled and prevent the disruption to refugee children who have found places in local schools. Because refugees have settled wherever hosts were available, they have often ended up in areas where property is expensive, or where work is not readily available.
Hosts called on the government to work directly with local authorities to improve access to schemes which would allow councils to act as guarantors for private rented accommodation while also increasing support for existing deposit guarantee schemes already being offered in some parts of the country.
The plea for further support comes after recent government figures showed the number of Ukrainian refugee households presenting to councils as homeless had risen by over 40 per cent in the last two months.
In October, PoliticsHome reported that plans to double the £350-a-month payments to hosts had been put on pause by the Treasury, despite warnings that many hosts would struggle to continue to accommodate refugees without an increase in the payments.
But the group urged Chancellor Jeremy Hunt to rethink the decision, especially for hosts who were supporting multiple refugees beyond the six-month period, or those who were "bearing the brunt of the cost of living crisis".
Writing for The House, Dr Krish Kandiah, who is the director of the Sanctuary Foundation, said the government faced losing the "incredible goodwill" of the public unless further support was made available.
"Housing is the biggest and most challenging problem that may well determine whether the Homes for Ukraine scheme will be seen as a success or not," he wrote.
"If we are to fulfil our promise to stand with the Ukrainian nation as it continues to face brutal Russian aggression, we must continue our ground-breaking welcome. We are at a critical moment in the Homes for Ukraine Scheme."
He added: "We stand at the precipice of either a historic moment of honour in our hospitality towards refugees or a moment of defeat snatched from the jaws of victory by failing to see the initiative through to its next steps."
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