More than 89,000 people across the UK have offered homes to Ukrainian refugees. Local resident Molly Toomey answers questions on government scheme
What is the Homes for Ukraine scheme?The Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities launched this new scheme that offers a route for Ukrainians who want to come to the UK and have someone here willing to provide them with a home. It will enable households, charities, community organisations and businesses to volunteer accommodation for Ukrainians forced to escape the war.
Do I qualify to become a host?
Anyone in the UK can host refugees – this includes British citizens and anyone residing in the country, so long as you have at least six months remaining in the UK. It’s required that you’re able to host refugees in your own home or in another property belonging to you for a minimum of six months. Charities, companies and community organisations are also eligible.
In the first phase of the scheme, prospective hosts in the UK must be able to provide the name of a Ukrainian individual or family who they wish to sponsor (i.e., the tie will need to already exist). The government has stated that this will expedite the effort, bypassing government bureaucracy. The government advises British hosts to get in contact with the Ukrainian they wish to host directly and prepare the visa application jointly.
Those in Britain who don’t personally know any Ukrainian refugees can register their interest on the government’s website, and will be advised to contact relevant charities, faith groups or local community organisations who are making connections between individuals, as the government has not yet committed to playing the role of match-maker in any phase.
Where do I start?
To begin the process of becoming a host to a refugee or refugees, you’ll need to apply through the government website.
All prospective hosts will be vetted by the government, and security checks will be carried out for all Ukrainian applicants prior to being matched with a host. It’s expected that we’ll get more details on these checks in the days ahead.
What are my obligations as a host?
If you become a host, you will not be expected to provide food or living expenses, but you are free to do so if you choose. Hosts will also receive a monthly tax-free “thank you” payment of £350 from the government, which will not affect recipients’ benefit entitlements. The “thank you” payment amount will remain the same whether Britons host one Ukrainian refugee or a family. The payment is limited to one per residential address, and is guaranteed for up to 12 months.
Who will benefit?
Ukrainian applicants for this scheme do not need to have a family or other qualifying connection to the UK, which is the case with other visa avenues. Any Ukrainian national, or the immediate family member of a Ukrainian national who was a resident of Ukraine prior to January 2022, will be eligible to apply to this scheme.
The government has said it will place no cap or limit to the number of Ukrainian refugees who can be hosted in the UK, but there has been some debate over this point.
Refugees with a valid Ukrainian international passport will be able to apply online, but those without a passport will have to do so at Visa Application Centres operating in European countries, including countries bordering Ukraine.
What support will refugees receive, in addition to the housing?
As part of the scheme, local authorities will receive £10,500 in extra funding per refugee to fund support services, and higher funding for school age children.
Ukrainians hosted under the scheme will have the right to work and to access benefits and public services for three years.
Sainsbury’s, Marks & Spencer, Morrisons and other retailers have pledged to employ Ukrainian refugees.
How’s the program going so far?
The Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, which launched the scheme, announced that nearly 90,000 British households and organisations have thus far offered to participate.
The latest figures from the United Nations estimate that 2.8 million Ukrainians have fled the country since the start of the war in February.
What’s Lewisham doing?
The Borough of Sanctuary wrote to the Government, pledging its support to the scheme:
“Communities and local authorities across the UK, such as ours in Lewisham, stand ready to help the Ukrainian people now suffering from the war in their country.
“Lewisham is living up to its role as a Borough of Sanctuary for refugees, asylum-seekers and migrants. Our community has risen to the humanitarian emergency with volunteers giving donations of money, clothes and other essential items for Ukrainians in need.
“Many residents of Lewisham are also willing to help accommodate Ukrainian refugees, as has been done for refugees from other areas of conflict with Lewisham recently resettling 55 families from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan.
“This Council therefore offers our support in whichever way we can in welcoming and supporting Ukrainian refugees in this current crisis, so we urgently request the Government’s proposals for any resettlement support for Ukrainians seeking sanctuary in the UK.”
Will Government leadership host refugees, too?
Number 10 has indicated that Boris Johnson will be unable to take in any refugees due to security protocols at Downing Street. Meanwhile, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said he plans to apply to become a host and Levelling Up Secretary Gove said he would consider hosting a Ukrainian refugee, but Health Secretary Sajid Javid said he could not “offer the time”.
Labour leader Keir Starmer has announced he plans to become a host.