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Fears over hosting scheme as Ukrainians arriving in UK already registering homeless

Fears over hosting scheme as Ukrainians arriving in UK already registering homeless
At least 36 refugee households arriving under Homes for Ukraine have already registered as homeless

Dozens of refugees who have come to the UK under the Homes for Ukraine scheme have registered as homeless within days of arriving – prompting concern that hosting placements are already breaking down.

Figures released by the Local Government Association (LGA) reveal that at least 36 Ukrainian households who have come to Britain under the new sponsorship scheme have already presented as homeless to local councils.

The scheme, launched on 18 March, is designed to enable members of the British public to host Ukrainian refugees who have fled Vladimir Putin’s invasion into their homes, for which they are paid £350 per month. More than 150,000 people have so far registered their interest in hosting.

But the new data, revealed on Wednesday, indicates that in some cases placements are already breaking down, sparking concerns around the level of checks that are carried out before refugees move in with hosts.

The government has said 28,300 applications have been submitted under the programme since it launched, of which 2,700 have so far been issued – but it has so far refused to say how many applicants have so far arrived.

James Jamieson, chair of the LGA, told MPs in the levelling up, housing and communities committee on Wednesday that 36 Ukrainian households on the sponsorship programme had presented as homeless to councils.

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According to the LGA survey results he was citing, a further 44 Ukrainian families who have arrived under the family scheme have approached local authority homelessness services, while 64 whose status is unknown have also done so.

In total, 144 Ukrainian refugee households have presented as homeless since the start of the war across 57 councils. Fewer than two thirds of all councils responded to the survey, so the true figure is likely to be higher.

Mr Jamieson told MPs councils were “worried” about this, and warned that central government was not providing local authorities with adequate information on hosting arrangements before refugees arrive in the UK.

He said that while they were getting data “reasonably timely” once visas had been submitted, this data was “missing details” that would enable proper checks to be carried out to ensure the placement is suitable.

“If we knew where the sponsors were, we would have the opportunity to check the properties out before the families arrive and would meet the people offering accommodation,” the LGA chair said.

“Any idea about the needs of new arrivals, particularly traumatisation, pregnancy, disability, will hopefully mean fewer breakdowns but also gives councils an opportunity before they arrive to prepare.

“At the moment my understanding is the checks are being done after the visa has been issued. There may be a situation where someone arrives and three days later it is decided it is not suitable accommodation.”

Clive Betts, vice-president of the LGA, who was chairing the committee hearing, told The Independent afterwards: “The whole idea of the sponsorship scheme is that it wouldn’t put pressures on local housing, but obviously it looks as if it will now.

“So what’s the answer? It seems to be that they haven’t got one at present.”

It comes after The Independent first revealed that newly arrived Ukrainian refugees were registering is homeless in the UK, leaving councils to “pick up the pieces” and arrange emergency housing for them with no additional funding from central government.

Families who have fled the Russian invasion and been granted visas on the Ukraine family scheme, which allows Ukrainians to join UK-based relatives, have arrived without anywhere to stay because their relatives do not have space in their homes to house them.

A government spokesperson said it was urgently looking at the cases raised by the LGA, adding: “These schemes are designed to ensure people who are coming to the UK fleeing the Russian invasion are provided with accommodation by their family or sponsor.

“Through Homes for Ukraine the government is giving councils £10,500 per person to provide support, including in a minority of cases where someone is left without accommodation.”

The Independent has a proud history of campaigning for the rights of the most vulnerable, and we first ran our Refugees Welcome campaign during the war in Syria in 2015. Now, as we renew our campaign and launch this petition in the wake of the unfolding Ukrainian crisis, we are calling on the government to go further and faster to ensure help is delivered. To find out more about our Refugees Welcome campaign, click here. To sign the petition click here. If you would like to donate then please click here for our GoFundMe page.