'Homes for Ukraine' Refugee Scheme

Our colleague, Dr Olena Nizalova, is of Ukrainian origin and since the Russian invasion at the start of the month she has been sharing resources for anyone who would like to support, as well as concerns for the ongoing situation. She writes for us here.

‘In response to continuing pressure from British society, a new route for the Ukrainians fleeing the atrocities of war was been announced last week, with the opportunity for people in the U.K. to open their homes to those fleeing the war in Ukraine. The application forms are now open.

Britons have shown an overwhelming response and the number of expressions of interest grows by the hour (almost 90,000 people signed up to be a host within the first day). While the move is very much welcomed, I would like to raise a number of concerns that can have a potential to undermine the good intentions, linked to the announced “thank you” payment to the host families. However, there is still a chance for the government to address them and amend the process.

First of all, there are already a number of families that have already arrived in the U.K. via the family route, but some families had to rely on rooms provided by their friends in order to accommodate new arrivals. It seems that these people will be outside of the system and will not be able to receive the announced “thank you” payments. Although their good will is still there and I am sure they will not walk away from the arrangements agreed upon before, it would be great if the system can be extended to include them as well. That would put the Ukrainian families at ease with regards to covering the increased utility costs for the hosts, etc.

Second is the handling of the situations if the agreed upon arrangement breaks down before the end of the six-months period. We are all people and there may be situations due to unforeseen circumstances when a family may be in need of another host. While this probably will be in rare cases, it would be best if there was a mechanism for the “thank you payment” to be linked to the Ukrainian family. And should re-arrangement of accommodation be necessary, the payment would be transferred to another host.

Third is the lump-sum payment which is linked neither to the rooms provided nor to the size of the family which is being hosted. We are observing all kinds of situations, including some companies providing entire flats and houses for 5+ people and/or potentially two Ukrainian families that prefer to stay together. Some people hosting a single person or a family of two, while others four or more individuals. Some link of the payment to either the rooms or to the families would be better, especially in light of growing prices for utilities across the UK.

Finally, something that may minor at the moment, but crucial in the future to ensure that families stand on their feet after the six-months period is over and their search to find their independent accommodation. Despite the regulation clearly stating that there shall be no rental payments, it would be helpful to have some sort of a formal agreement (aka occupancy agreement), which will serve a three-fold purpose: (i) it will specify the rights and responsibilities of both parties involved with regards to the use of premises (e.g. some basic house rules), (ii) it will provide the proof of address necessary for various purposes (GP registration, opening a bank account, school application), and (iii) it will put Ukrainian families on the way towards independent accommodation by providing a trace in their residential history and references for future landlords.

As could be seen, the issues I have mentioned above may seem trivial at the moment, but easy to rectify and ensure that there are no detrimental consequences in the future for both the Ukrainian families and the host families involved.’

Anyone in the UK – of any nationality, providing they have at least six months leave to remain in the UK – can apply to be a host through the government website. You have to be able to host the refugees in your own home or in another property, for at least six months.

Find previous resources shared by Dr Olena Nizalova, to support Ukraine here

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