Ukrainian Refugees At Risk Of Homelessness Rise Almost 40 Per Cent In Single Month
New data show a major rise in the risk of homelessness (Alamy)
Over 800 Ukrainian refugee households have been left at risk of homelessness in the last month, despite repeated warnings to ministers to address housing issues faced by those wishing to settle in the UK.
New government data has shown a 37 per cent rise in the number of Ukrainian refugees presenting to local councils as being at risk of becoming homeless in the last four weeks, with almost 3,000 households having contacted local authorities since February.
The latest figures show a further 800 households were left at risk of homelessness between October and November, with almost 70 per cent of those households including dependent children.
Nearly 550 of those were households who had arrived through the Homes for Ukraine scheme, where British hosts offered accommodation for a minimum period of at least six months, with the remainder made up of people who had arrived through a family visa route.
Shadow homelessness minister Paula Barker told PoliticsHome the figures were proof that "countless warnings" had gone "unheeded" by government ministers.
"Why was no plan put in place to prevent a crisis that was predicted months ago?," she added.
"From day one of Russia’s invasion, 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."
But the record monthly increase shown in the figures may not represent the full scale of the issue, with the department for levelling up admitting that over 25 per cent of local authorities had failed to provide any data because it was a "non-mandatory collection".
Among those reported, the data show that just five of the new cases had been averted through mediation, while 145 had been rematched with other hosts. A further 260 had been dealt with by finding offers of settled accommodation.
The sudden surge in homelessness claims comes after months of warnings to ministers that many households would be left at risk, as many of the early arrivals through the scheme approached the end of their six-month hosting periods.
The flagship scheme has faced additional turbulence following the departure of Boris Johnson from Downing Street, with several different ministers being handed responsibility for running the scheme under Liz Truss's and Rishi Sunak's premierships.
PoliticsHome reported last month that plans to double the monthly £350-a-month payment to help hosts cover excess bills had also been paused, despite fears the cost of living crisis would make it harder for families to continue providing accommodation during the winter months.
Earlier this week, thousands of hosts signed a joint letter urging the government to step in to improve financial support for refugees, while also requesting that ministers take action to reduce barriers for refugees attempting to secure accommodation in the private rented sector.
The letter, organised by the Sanctuary Foundation charity, was delivered to Downing Street on Tuesday and highlighted new findings from the Office for National Statistics which showed almost half of Ukrainians have faced barriers when attempting to secure their own accommodation.
Their call for further government involvement comes as refugees face a patchwork of support from local authorities, with many launching their own efforts to support Ukrainian households, either by increasing payments to hosts from their own budgets, or offering to act as rental guarantors for those attempting to move into the private rental sector.
Speaking to PoliticsHome about the latest figures, Krish Kandiah, director of the Sanctuary Foundation, said many households who had been promised sanctuary in the UK had now been left with "anxiety and uncertainty" about their futures.
"I have sat with mothers in my lounge who were in tears because they have nowhere to live. They were already wracked with worry about their families living without heat and light in Ukraine and we have only compounded their anxieties," he said.
"We cannot ask under pressure local authorities to come up with a solution to this. We need leadership from central government to work with civil society to find a robust housing solution that will help both local housing needs and those of refugees."
PoliticsHome provides the most comprehensive coverage of UK politics anywhere on the web, offering high quality original reporting and analysis: Subscribe