Homes for Ukraine scheme labelled ‘sea of ineptitude’ amid delays

A Homes for Ukraine sponsor hoping to host a colleague from Kyiv has described the process as “a giant sea of ineptitude and delays”, as the Russian invasion passes the eight-month mark.

According to data up to October 24 from the Home Office, 101,200 Ukrainians have arrived in the UK under the scheme since its launch in March following various application approvals and checks.

But some have called for clarity on the future of the scheme, including groups who claim concern is growing that it is being “quietly phased out”.

Tom Hayes-Isaacs, 37, based in Haringey, north London, and his husband James, 33, began the process to house a friend who runs a youth HIV charity in Ukraine’s capital on August 23.

They have faced delays, including, they say, when the Home Office withdrew their friend’s visa application without telling her when she put an email address in the wrong box.

Mr Hayes-Isaacs, who works in marketing for an HIV charity, told the PA news agency: “It was a really simple mistake. But instead of just calling her to correct it, they cancelled her visa and didn’t tell her.

Tom and James Hayes-Isaacs
Tom and James Hayes-Isaacs started their Homes for Ukraine application at the end of August (Tom Hayes-Isaacs/PA)

“So she had to start the application from scratch.

“The whole thing has been just a giant sea of ineptitude and delays.”

Mr Hayes-Isaacs said the application has finally been “signed off now”, and they hope to welcome their friend in the next couple of weeks.

But he said the process has been “a nightmare” for all involved and “it’s just dragged on for no real reason”.

He added: “She’s obviously trying to get over, desperately… She’s in Berlin now in emergency accommodation, but it’s still not ideal.

“No one person is looking after the process.

Russian invasion of Ukraine
Thousands fled Ukraine when Russia invaded in February (Victoria Jones/PA)

“She’s done everything that was asked of her immediately, we’ve done everything asked of us as soon as we’ve been contacted, and it’s just dragged on for no real reason, as far as I can tell.”

“It’s supposed to be a 10-day process, isn’t it?”

He described feeling “frustrated and impatient” as the delays, including weeks-long “silence” from Haringey Council, have disrupted the timeframe they had in mind.

“When we started this in August, we thought she’d be over and she might be here until the new year and move on or find a home for herself, or she was talking about becoming a student in the UK,” Mr Hayes-Isaacs explained.

“We’re probably getting her just before Christmas and it’s a weird time for someone to try and settle into a new home over Christmas.

“It just seems like something that should be so joined up has been so deliberately disjointed.”

While he added that councils are “very stretched financially”, Mr Hayes-Isaacs stated what he believes to be the problem.

Russian invasion of Ukraine
As of October 24, 101,200 people have arrived in the UK under the Homes for Ukraine scheme (Victoria Jones/PA)

“Our main problem is all the different departments don’t talk to each other,” he said.

“They have no real link to the Home Office either.

“If there were people overseeing the process, from the Home Office (and) through the council’s various departments, I think it would just make things so much easier for everyone concerned.”

Mr Hayes-Isaacs maintained it is “incredibly important” that both the Government and the British public continue to provide safe homes for those fleeing Ukraine, especially heading into winter.

“As we’ve seen in recent days, the destruction of Ukraine’s energy grid… the war is still intensifying,” he said.

“It’s not a safe country people live in and we should be providing homes for our European neighbours to escape to, just as generations before us have done.

“We’re very privileged to have spare rooms in our homes, why not provide a safe place to live?”

A spokesperson for the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities said: “We have now welcomed 101,200 Ukrainians to the UK through our Homes for Ukraine scheme and issued 138,900 visas, making it one of the biggest UK visa schemes in history.

“Our work to streamline the visa process, including simplifying the forms and boosting staff numbers, is working and visas continue to be processed as a priority.”