Liz Truss's commitment to Ukraine on the front line must also extend to refugees on the home front
Through the action of our Government, the generosity of our public and the strength of our collective resolve, the UK has proven itself to be one of Ukraine’s greatest allies in the fight against the tyranny of Vladimir Putin.
We can rightly be proud of our efforts to corral the world’s leaders to take action against Russia, and our own efforts providing military support and opening up our homes to those fleeing the conflict. Britain has shown that when it comes to defeating Russia, we will do what is needed.
This week’s devastating attacks on Ukrainian cities have shown precisely why we cannot afford to weaken that commitment and resolve. If there were ever any doubt, Russia’s brutal rocket attacks, targeted deliberately at civilians show there are no lengths that Putin won’t go to in his brutality - brutality which is not just an assault on Ukraine, but on the very foundations of the liberal democratic world order.
Defeating Putin will mean doing more to help Ukraine on the frontline, supplying, and persuading others to send more military equipment to help Zelensky’s army to defeat the Russians. It will also mean taking even more stringent economic measures to isolate Russia and the countries who support the Kremlin. But on top of that, it will mean doing more on the Home Front too to support those who need sanctuary in our country while the war continues, through bolstering the Homes for Ukraine scheme.
The scheme has shown Britain at its best. Communities around the UK - from Bridgend to Market Harborough, Crieff to Newquay - have opened their homes to around 100,000 Ukrainian refugees, largely women and children who have been forced to upend their lives during the conflict. What’s more, many of those who are hosting refugees have not simply offered a room but are ensuring refugees are able to live their lives as freely and happily as they can while they're in the UK. We’ve heard inspiring stories, like that of an award-winning author who has dedicated their time to helping families learn English, a couple in London who have cleared space so that a Ukranian ballet dancer can continue to train in London and a farming family in Newquay who have helped Ukrainian children with the trauma of the move by letting them bond with their animals.
However, as winter approaches, both host families and refugees now need assurances that the Government remains committed to the scheme and to providing the necessary support. In particular, as the rising cost of living continues to bite, the Government needs to reconsider whether the £350 monthly payments to hosts are sufficient to support. Many host families we have spoken to have told us they are keen to continue supporting the Ukrainian families in their care, but the current level of financial support is making it increasingly difficult to house an extra person.
What’s more, some Ukrainians, particularly those who have found work in their communities, are now looking to find their own homes for their families while they live in the UK. The bureaucracy involved however means that without financial support from their hosts this is often difficult. A rental scheme for all refugees who have arrived through a government-backed scheme, supported by local authorities who can act as guarantors for private landlords would help to alleviate these problems.
Today, More in Common, alongside a broad coalition of civil society organisations and refugee support groups is calling on the Government to provide long term clarity on the future of the scheme and to ensure that hosts and families have what they need to make the scheme a success. The Prime Minister’s support for Ukraine, reaffirmed during her speech at Conservative Party Conference, has been unwavering - which is why we hope our call finds a receptive audience in Number 10. What is more, supporting Ukrainian refugees is not only the right thing to do, it is hugely popular among the British public too. Our polling has found that an overwhelming 70% of the public want to see the scheme continue to provide support to refugees from Ukraine with just 15% opposed.
We also believe there is an opportunity to learn from the scheme to rethink our approach to refugee resettlement in the UK more generally, making community sponsorship a route to welcome refugees not just from Ukraine, but for more of those who come to the UK through legal routes to seek refuge. Such an approach empowers communities, rather than central Government, with control over resettling refugees has the potential both to better support those in need, and the communities they move to.
Our welcoming support to Ukraine has shown the very best of Britain. While there is no doubt that the whole country faces a challenging winter ahead, we know that the generosity of British spirit towards those in need will persist. Our hope is that the Government will continue to match that generosity of spirit and guarantee the long-term future of the Homes for Ukraine scheme.
Luke Tryl is UK director of More in Common
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