Ukrainian Refugees Have Struggled With Work And Housing Since Arriving In the UK
Ukrainian refugees face significant challenges to find housing in the UK (Alamy)
A new survey has found growing concerns among Ukrainian refugees about their future lives in Britain as housing and employment barriers continue to mount.
The study of nearly 2,000 Ukrainian refugees, conducted on behalf of refugee charity The Sanctuary Foundation found that 90 per cent of refugees arriving under the government's Homes for Ukraine scheme were glad to have come to the UK rather than another country, with almost 89 per cent citing their UK hosts as the main reason for their happiness with the scheme.
Over 160,000 Ukrainian refugees have arrived in the UK under the flagship programme, which asked sponsors to house refugees for a minimum period of six months in return for an initial £350-a-month payment to help offset their costs.
The survey released ahead of the one-year anniversary since Russian President Vladimir Putin launched his brutal invasion on Ukraine, finds that refugees continue to face major hurdles to integration despite being overwhelmingly grateful to have been offered sanctuary in the UK.
While the study found that two-thirds of refugees were still living with a British host family, there were growing concerns over their future prospects in the UK as many hosting arrangements begin to come to an end, with 59 per cent reporting they were worried about their long-term housing arrangement with just 16 per cent had been able to find their own private rented accommodation.
Asked to explain their concerns, dozens of Ukrainian refugees said they had struggled to find private rented accommodation, with several claiming they were being asked for six months rent up-front or were being denied leases because they were claiming benefits.
PoliticsHome recently reported that council leaders were urging ministers to create innovative solutions for refugees who frequently fall foul of credit score requirements due to their limited time living in the UK as homelessness rates continue to rise.
The study also found that 39 per cent of Ukrainian refugees were struggling to afford the UK's high rental prices, while a further 28 per cent said landlords were hesitant to offer them properties because they were reliant on benefits.
Asked to provide details about their experience, several respondents who had been able to find private accommodation said they had only been able to secure a property because their original hosts had been willing to act as a guarantor for their rent.
Speaking to PoliticsHome, one host family said they were "anxious" about the long-term prospects for their Ukrainian guests, saying the current system had left them in an "impossible situation".
"They have found work which more than covers their rent so we were happy to initially act as guarantors for their flat given the problems they had finding a place, but it's a short-term solution," they said.
"Our concern is that if the situation suddenly improves in Ukraine and they want to return home or maybe they lose their jobs, we could be left on the hook for their rent... and I suspect that is a worry for many other hosts.
"Having hosted them for almost nine months, we didn't expect to be responsible for their financial security for the entire time they are staying in the UK. That seems to us to be a really unreasonable ask."
Questioned about the challenges they had faced since arriving in the UK, three-quarters of respondents said they had anxiety about their future for themselves and their family, while a further 71 per cent expressed concern about the future of Ukraine as the war continues to drag on into it's second year.
A majority (54 per cent) also expressed challenges in communicating in English, while 53 per cent were concerned about their ability to find employment.
According to the figures, over 82 per cent of arrivals had held a full time job when living in Ukraine or ran their own business, but having arrived in the UK, just 25 per cent have been able to find full time work, while 36 per cent are unemployed and another 34 per cent are working in lower level jobs than previously.
Many respondents also express frustration that their work qualifications were not accepted in the UK, or claimed their English language skills were preventing them from finding work which matched with their skills.
Many respondents also expressed concerns which will chime with other Brits, including a lack of job opportunities in rural communities, poor transport connections, and concerns about the ability to book appointments with GPs, with one respondent saying the biggest issue which had caused them discomfort since moving to the UK being the "ticket machines at Euston station".
Responding to the results, Krish Kandiah, director of the Sanctuary Foundation, said: "Britain is a compassionate and welcoming country - the statistical evidence is overwhelming. One year after Ukrainians fled the barbaric invasion of their country, survey results show that they have felt welcomed that their hosts have made a huge positive difference to their lives and that their children have transitioned well to schools here.
"We should be tremendously proud of ourselves as a country - for stepping up and supporting 160,000 Ukrainian refugees over the past year in ways that were profoundly meaningful."
He added: "But we cannot rest on our laurels. There are ongoing challenges of welcome, finding work and sourcing worthwhile housing for our new Ukrainian friends and neighbours. And refugees from other war-torn countries who need our help too.
"Let's be proud of all we have done, but let's also get on with all that needs to be done."
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