Making our vision reality

By Bill Handley | 01 June 2023

From the moment the Homes for Ukraine scheme was launched, we knew on a humanitarian level that our South Cambridgeshire communities would want to step in to help – and they didn’t disappoint. 

Since then, we have remained the local district authority with the highest number of visas granted for Homes for Ukraine guests with 926 issued so far. 

We have carried out 954 DBS checks on sponsor homes, processed 2,590 monthly payments and completed 438 welfare checks for people living across 74 parishes within South Cambridgeshire. 
However, while our residents have been nothing short of amazing in opening their homes to welcome guests, it was clear from very early on that we would need to put in place plans to enable Ukrainian families to live independently. 
That early vision – and the hard work during the first six months of the Homes for Ukraine scheme – has been key in ensuring we have a solid programme to rematch guests and hosts and to continue to find homes for the Ukrainian families living in our district.  
I’m really proud of what this council has done. We have a superb scheme that is running well, and we still have a good (albeit smaller) pool of potential hosts to rematch with guests. 
We have a fully resourced Homes for Ukraine liaison team, who work closely with the Homeless Advice Service. The team is data driven and have been proactive in reaching out to hosts and guests to get a full understanding of what is needed, as opposed to waiting to hear, and that has helped enormously. 
In addition, the Government tariff for the Homes for Ukraine scheme was funded in a way that gave us the opportunity to put the support in place and achieve our goals. 
The reality though, is that the number of Ukrainian guests in South Cambridgeshire is high and this is an area where competition is immense for a small number of available rental homes – and rents are very high too – so it’s a real challenge. But we climbed the first mountain when the scheme was launched, and now we are scaling the second one. And we are making great progress.  
Our focus now is within our ‘moving on’ team who are finding innovative ways to continue to support guests, especially with housing options such as: 
• Council support to rematch guests with new hosts 
• Rematching with an interim host (for shorter-term placements) 
• Support with applying for social housing  
• Renting privately 
• The Buddy Scheme which aims to pair Ukrainian families to share a rented property to make it more affordable 
• Lodging – remaining with their original host under a new agreement 
To help people make the move to more independent living we have the same final support we would for any resident experiencing homelessness. This includes schemes to pay for furniture, rent in advance, rent deposits and, once they have moved on a discretionary scheme, to provide payments if they experience hardship for a short period of time. 
In addition to the moving on options listed above, the Government has provided a capital grant to help the council purchase additional new homes to use in the scheme.   
The financial support from the Government has been very positive but they know as well as we do that there is currently no exit strategy. The housing challenge is massive which is why the council has developed a range of schemes, and we believe they will all help us reach our overall goal, but there is no single magical answer. 
This is an international humanitarian crisis and our communities have galvanised their support in the most incredible way. But for how much longer? 

Cllr Bill Handley is lead cabinet member for communities


comments powered by Disqus
Housing Refugees Ukraine South Cambridgeshire