MPs have joined local authority leaders in calling on the Government to provide councils with extra funding to support Ukrainian refugees arriving in the UK via the family visa scheme.
Ukrainian refugees arriving in the UK under the Ukraine Family Scheme – a scheme that is no different to a normal family visa route – do not have access to the same level of support as those arriving under the Homes for Ukraine scheme.
This means that local authorities have to support refugees arriving under the family scheme with, for example, school places, community integration, and trauma support, but without any extra help from the Government.
The Local Government Association (LGA) has urged the Government to allow councils to re-match those who come under the family scheme with a sponsor under the Homes for Ukraine scheme.
This is particularly important because councils are seeing some arrivals from Ukraine on the family scheme presenting as homeless because the families’ accommodation is not suitable or the relationship has broken down shortly after arrival, according to the LGA.
An LGA spokesperson commented: ‘Currently councils receive no data on, or funding for, people who are coming under the family visa scheme. Some of those families present as homeless once they have arrived, but we are asking that they should be able to be re-matched with a sponsor under the Homes for Ukraine scheme.
‘Urgent work is needed on how councils can work with government and the community, faith and voluntary sector so those offering their homes can be quickly matched with a family in need.’
Clive Betts MP, chair of the Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (LUHC) Committee, has also written to Lord Harrington, minister for refugees, Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, expressing ‘significant concerns’ on support for Ukrainian refugees and for local authorities.
‘Stories of Ukrainian families arriving in the UK, living in single rooms and being forced to declare themselves homeless after fleeing war are adding to concerns that Ukrainian refugees are not getting the support they need,’ he said.
‘Local authorities will see increasing demands for their services and yet are being told by Government there is no funding to cover this under the Ukraine Family Scheme. The Government needs to step up and put this right.’
Mr Betts also asked Lord Harrington to confirm whether data on arrivals from the family scheme were now being shared with local authorities. It is ‘vital’, he said, that councils are informed about refugees arriving through the family route so that they can provide appropriate services and allocate resources to help them.
‘Across the country, in each local authority there will no doubt be sponsors who are willing to host refugees under the Homes for Ukraine scheme. However, the disconnect in the current matching process, means this hospitality is not being taken up,’ he said.
‘Data should be shared with local authorities so they can match refugees to sponsors as quickly as possible and so that councils can plan the services and resources to support those fleeing from Ukraine.’
The Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (LUHC) Committee has also called for a more joined-up approach to helping refugees regardless of where they have come from.
‘My Committee heard from the Local Government Association about the very different experiences of refugees in this country depending on which country they have fled,’ said Mr Betts.
‘Given the many challenges that the Ukraine schemes have presented, and the fact that there are still outstanding issues nearly two months on from the launch of the family scheme and six weeks on from the launch of Homes for Ukraine, I strongly urge you to begin planning for a joined-up approach to welcoming refugees sooner rather than later.’