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Ministers Warned Of "Crisis" In Ukrainian Refugee Scheme After 40 Per Cent Rise In Homelessness Claims

The number of Ukrainian refugees facing homelessness has rise sharply (Alamy)

4 min read

New data released by the government shows a significant spike in the number of those presenting to their local council as homeless since the opening of visa routes for Ukrainian refugees.

The number has risen almost 40 per cent in the last two months, with 70 per cent of those households including dependent children. The latest figures show that by 21 October, 2,175 households had been owed homelessness prevention or relief since the routes opened, up from 1,565 on 26 August.

Almost 1,200 of those were refugees being hosted on the Homes for Ukraine scheme, where British households offered accomodation for a minimum period of at least six months, with the remainder made up of people who had arrived through a family visa route.

Among those presenting as homeless, the figures state that 160 of those cases had been prevented by mediation between refugees and their hosts, while 300 had been rematched with other hosts.

A further 695 had been found temporary accomodation, while 455 had been made offers of settled accomodation.

It comes after repeated warnings from councils that further support would be needed to prevent a surge in homelessness as many refugees approached the end of their six-month period with their hosts.

PoliticsHome reported last month that plans to double the monthly £350-a-month payment to help hosts cover excess bills had been paused, despite fears the cost of living crisis would make it harder for families to continue providing accomodation.

Speaking to PoliticsHome, shadow homelessness minister Paula Barker said: "The government were warned on the day they launched ‘Homes for Ukraine’ about the risk of homelessness when placements came to an end, and there have been repeated warnings since.

"While the Conservatives were distracted by not one but two leadership elections, ministers failed to prepare for a crisis which was clearly looming, and which has now arrived."

It comes after the Department of Levelling Up, which is responsible for the scheme, confirmed that no minister had yet been given responsibility for the scheme following Rishi Sunak's major government reshuffle.

Barker added: "It is shameful that Ukrainian families who fled the bombs and bullets of Putin are facing homelessness in Britain. And it is shocking that those families seem to have been forgotten in Rishi Sunak’s reshuffle.

"From day one councils, charities and households across Britain have stepped up to help desperate Ukrainians in need. It is a disgrace that the government has failed to do the same."

Councils, which have a statutory duty to help people presenting as homeless, have already started their own schemes to help Ukrainian refugees, including using their budgets to top-up payments to hosts in an effort to help offset costs.

But councillor James Jamieson, chairman of the Local Government Association, which represents English councils, said: "We are deeply concerned at the growing number of Ukrainians presenting as homeless to their council, and in particular the significant rise in the number of those who arrived through the Homes for Ukraine scheme.

"As we reach the end of the initial six-month sponsorships, it is clear that increasing numbers are ending. It is absolutely crucial that support to sponsors is enhanced as inflation and energy costs increase so new or existing hosts are encouraged to sponsor in the longer term."

Jamieson told PoliticsHome that further "urgent work" was needed to help families access affordable accomodation and find work to help pay for private rentals.

"Without this urgent intervention, we anticipate more families needing to present as homeless in the coming weeks," he said.

"Council housing and homelessness services are already under significant pressures and further increases may mean families are forced to move into temporary accommodation away from the new schools, jobs and communities they have been building since they arrived.

"Councils will continue to do all they can to help those who are owed homelessness duties, but need urgent solutions to pressing housing needs in the short and the long term across all the schemes that welcome new arrivals to the UK."

Responding to the comments, a government spokesperson said: "No Ukrainian family should be without a roof over their heads but we always knew that it was sadly inevitable that a small proportion of sponsorships would fail and that there was a risk that sponsors would be unable to continue sponsoring after the conclusion of their initial period of hosting.

"Councils have a duty to ensure families have temporary housing and they receive UK government support for each Homes for Ukraine guest in their area for precisely this eventuality."

He added: "We are incredibly grateful to the British people who have opened up their homes and know that the vast majority are keen to continue this support. In place of those who are unable to, we urge others to come forward as sponsors and pick up the baton through rematching."

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