Homes For Ukraine Scheme Faces A "Crisis" As Quarter Of Hosts Plan To Quit
Ukrainian refugees are at risk of homelessness as hosting requirements end (Alamy)
Shadow communities secretary Lisa Nandy has accused ministers of "clocking off" from the Homes for Ukraine scheme during the Tory leadership campaign, as many early arrivals near the end of its six-month term.
New data from the Office for National Statistics released on Wednesday found over a quarter of sponsors who have opened their homes to Ukrainian refugees under the government's flagship scheme do not want their guests staying for longer than six months.
Speaking to PoliticsHome, she said it would be "shameful" if refugees who had fled Putin's invasion were left homeless or saw their lives uprooted again because they were forced to relocate from where they had now settled in the UK.
Around 75,000 Ukrainian refugees have already arrived in the UK through 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 the new ONS study, which comes as many of the first arrivals approach the end of the mandated period, found 26 per cent of current hosts wanted their guests to stay for six months or less, while a further 23 per cent said they were willing to extend their hosting commitment for up to 12 months.
The figures also found that nearly a quarter (21 per cent) of current or previous sponsors said the rise in cost-of-living had impacted their ability to provide support "quite a lot", while 9 per cent said it had "very much" harmed their ability to help their guests.
Last week PoliticsHome reported growing fears over the risk of homelessness among refugees as they were forced to leave their host families, with three Conservative council leaders saying they needed urgent help in providing longer term accommodation.
Hosts have also criticised ministers for failing to prepare for the coming months, with one sponsor from Devon saying her 20-year-old refugee would be unable to afford to privately rent any flat on their low paid seasonal job.
"With bills increasing, and unaffordable rents they simply could not afford to go it alone in a flat," they said.
"We are caught in a moral morass and it feels that the plan for the future was one nobody even began to think about when the offer of Homes for Ukraine went out.
"[The government is] totally unprepared for the inevitable need for hosts to claim their homes and lives back."
Nandy told PoliticsHome the government had "squandered" the generosity of British hosts who have found themselves without support.
"It would be shameful if Ukrainian families who fled the bombs and bullets of Putin find themselves homeless in Britain because ministers have clocked off and put the Tory leadership race ahead of doing their jobs," she said.
"The government has had months to prepare for this. We need to see a plan to prevent this becoming a crisis.
"Brits showed amazing generosity in opening their homes to desperate people in need. The government has already squandered much of that generosity. It cannot fail to do its job again."
Refugee minister Lord Harrington said the government had begun contacting hosts about the next steps, saying the support for refugees was a "testament to the goodwill the British public has shown the people of Ukraine since tanks first rolled across the border".
He added: "We initially asked sponsors to host for a minimum of six months and we are working closely with councils to ensure Ukrainians have a safe place to live if they decide to move on."
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