Ukrainian refugees need long-term support as Homes for Ukraine placements end
Today marks the one-year anniversary of the Homes for Ukraine scheme, a scheme which has highlighted the generosity of the British people and the hard work of councils to help more than 160,000 Ukrainians settle in the United Kingdom.
The combined effort of those kind enough to offer up their homes to people fleeing conflict, and councils working with local partners to ensure new arrivals are safe and have access to healthcare, education, jobs, English language support and more has been crucial to the success of the scheme.
The work that goes on behind the scenes to ensure any new arrival is welcomed into their new community and supported to thrive should not be underestimated, with councils developing a range of support in line with the needs of Ukrainians and their hosts. The result of this national effort is countless success stories and councils are proud of the role they’ve played, and continue to play, in making the scheme a success.
Ukrainians are being forced to present to councils as homeless
However, as the war continues into its second year, significant challenges remain to ensure they can be supported in the long-term. National research on experiences of Ukrainians shows clear need to focus on access to housing with almost half (45 per cent) of all respondents experiencing barriers to accessing private rented accommodation. There are huge numbers of individuals still living with a sponsor looking to move on into more permanent accommodation.
It is good that thank you payments for long-term hosts have been increased. As inflation and energy costs continue to rise, it is imperative that payments to existing, new or rematched sponsors is further increased to ensure matches do not become unsustainable for existing hosts and there are enough new hosts to step in when sponsorships break down or end.
Ukrainians are being forced to present to councils as homeless. Councils are working hard to help those who are owed homelessness duties, but are clear that is not a route to secure housing in the long-term, with many families already in temporary accommodation. We need urgent national solutions to meet housing needs in the short and long-term across all of our asylum and refugee resettlement schemes. The government is providing £150m to help prevent Ukrainians at risk of becoming homeless, but as the number of homeless Ukrainians rise details remain thin and councils need urgent clarity on how and when it can be spent.
We also need to look at the challenges in finding affordable housing across the UK for all those that need it, with council housing waiting lists long and the private rented sector becoming increasingly unfeasible for households due to widening gaps between Local Housing Allowance (LHA) rates and market rents.
Research also shows that employment and language support will be just as crucial for Ukrainians going forward, which very much reflects what we are hearing from councils locally. We are hugely concerned that there is no funding beyond the first year for councils and that funding for arrivals in 2023 has halved. This funding is crucial in supporting councils to offer wraparound help and turning a roof over someone’s head into a life with health security, job prospects and community support.
The past year has shown what the public and councils can do when large numbers of people arrive in the UK fleeing crisis. To build on these efforts, councils need a renewed commitment from government to ensure they can help all of those arriving from Ukraine and all new arrivals rebuild their lives in their new homes and their new communities.
Cllr James Jamieson, chairman of the Local Government Association (LGA).
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