Government defends help for Ukrainians in UK after charity notes gaps in support

The Government has insisted it is doing all it can to help Ukrainians who have fled to the UK, after a charity criticised gaps in support which it said is making life hard for refugees already facing the emotional impact of the conflict.

Many of those who are supporting Ukrainian refugees through Government schemes are struggling to afford to continue hosting people amid the cost-of-living crisis, the British Red Cross said.

The charity called for hosts to be given more financial support and noted the numbers of Ukrainians facing the risk of homelessness as sponsorship arrangements come to an end.

The latest official figures show that 4,295 Ukrainian households have needed assistance from councils in the face of homelessness.

A Government spokesperson said the fact the UK had welcomed more than 162,000 Ukrainians to safety since the outbreak of the war a year ago demonstrates “the extraordinary generosity of the British public”.

They said the visa schemes specially set up for Ukrainian arrivals were “designed to address the various needs of those hoping to seek refuge here”.

They added: “In all cases local authorities have a legal duty to ensure no families are left without a roof over their heads.”

The Homes for Ukraine Scheme sees people sponsored by a UK household for six months, while the Ukraine Family Scheme is for those with family already settled in the UK.

Up to February 20, a total of 163,500 people had arrived to the UK under both schemes.

There were 47,800 arrivals via the Ukraine Family Scheme and 115,800 via Homes for Ukraine.

The Government noted that under the Homes for Ukraine scheme it is giving councils per-person funding, as well as £150 million to support guests into their own homes and £500 million to find housing.

It also announced an increase in December in so-called “thank you” payments to sponsors of £500 a month for guests who have been in the country for more than a year.

But the Red Cross said that increase could come “too late, and won’t always be enough”.

The charity called on the Government to clarify the details and allocation of the £150 million one-off funding for local authorities so they can address growing housing needs, and to ensure both hosts and displaced Ukrainians under the family scheme are given the same support as those on the Homes for Ukraine Scheme.

The Red Cross also urged the Government to “immediately increase monthly payments for all hosts in line with the rising cost of living” and to look at schemes supporting Ukrainians with deposits to move into the private rented sector.

Mike Adamson, British Red Cross chief executive, said: “One year on since the conflict in Ukraine escalated, many displaced people in the UK are still living with their hosts, finding jobs and settling into life here.

“But many others are struggling. We must ensure the warm welcome shown by thousands of people is recognised and built on, so we don’t see more families facing homelessness on top of trauma.

“We should not have a situation where the type of visa you arrived on determines whether or not your host family receives support. This is putting huge pressure on families in the UK who are doing their best to help, especially with rising bills and food costs.

“Gaps in support and barriers to securing accommodation are also making life hard for Ukrainian families, who are already dealing with the emotional impact of the conflict.”

Acknowledging the successes of the Government’s efforts towards Ukrainians, in helping them to quickly and safely escape and seek protection in the UK, the charity’s report also states that lessons could be learned for future operations.

The charity said it is encouraging policymakers to consider how safe routes could be expanded to other refugees seeking safety.

Mr Adamson said: “While there are problems that need addressing, the UK’s response to the conflict in Ukraine demonstrates what’s possible when we provide safe routes for people in need of protection.

“Notably, no Ukrainians were recorded as crossing the English Channel according to the most recent data. The UK Government should now take stock to improve the way it responds to refugees fleeing conflict, violence and persecution in other countries too.”