Government urged to double £350 payments for hosts of Ukrainian refugees

Government urged to double £350 payments for hosts of Ukrainian refugees
One in four hosts plan to end arrangement due to cost of living pressures – as Treasury urged to boost payments

The government is said to be considering proposals to double the £350 payment to British families hosting Ukrainians, amid growing fears that thousands of refugees could be left homeless.

It comes as more than a thousand hosts of Ukrainian refugees have signed an open letter urging ministers to make it easier for them to move on into permanent homes.

Around 79,000 refugees came to Britain under the Homes For Ukraine sponsorship scheme, after hosts agreed to provide accommodation for at least six months – but some placements are approaching their end.

Almost one in four hosts were planning to end the hosting arrangement at the end of six months, according to recent ONS figures – with many people citing pressure from the cost of living crisis.

The letter from the hosts – organised Sanctuary Foundation – echoed calls from the Local Government Association (LGA) to increase the £350 a month “thank you” payment, which would help hosts provide accommodation for longer than six months.

The Treasury has been presented with a proposal to increase the payment to £700 for all hosts willing to extend their welcome beyond the six months to stop refugees from being left homeless, according to PoliticsHome.

A source close to the Homes For Ukraine scheme told the website that they hoped an increase could be signed-off in the coming weeks, despite the change of prime minister on 5 September.

The proposals are said to have been put forward “not on moral grounds, purely on financial grounds”, since the doubling of payments would be less expensive than housing refugees declared homeless.

The government is continuing to monitor and review the support provided under the Homes for Ukraine scheme, it is understood.

Already, more than 1,300 Ukrainian single households and families have been assessed as homeless or threatened with homelessness, as of 2 July.

Some hosting arrangements have broken down, and some of the housing provided to refugees proved to be unsuitable. Councils fear that homelessness could rise as more of the initial six-month placements with some hosts end.

The Sanctuary Foundation, which organised the letter from around 1,200 hosts, said finding appropriate and affordable long-term accommodation “is one of the greatest challenges” to the scheme.

The government has been warned that “there is currently no simple way for them to find their own homes” amid pressures on social housing and the private rented sector.

The hosts’ letter reads: “As hosts who care deeply about the future of the Ukrainians in our homes, we ask the government to help us ensure they are able to take the next steps towards integration in our communities.

“There is currently no simple way for them to find their own homes, with social housing and the private rental sector already stretched and difficult to access.”

The group called for the government to take a series of practical steps to help refugees find permanent accommodation, including for Universal Credit housing allowance to be topped up for 12 months to enable refugees to remain in their local area.

They are calling for local authorities to be guarantors for those trying to rent a home, and for the government to outline a clear re-matching process and to recruit more hosts.

The letter adds: “Knowing that our guests can move on swiftly and safely when they and we are ready to do so will make a big difference, and will reduce stress for those who have already faced so much trauma fleeing a war, as well as for those of us hosting them.”

The Independent has approached the Treasury for comment.