Ministers must take the ‘risk of homelessness to Ukrainian families seriously’

Ministers need to take the “risk of homelessness to Ukrainian families seriously and act quickly,” a Labour MP has warned.

Olivia Blake raised concerns over the “shameful prospect of homelessness for some Ukrainian families and the restrictions they face as they transition into private sector rented housing”.

The MP for Sheffield, Hallam said that according to the British Red Cross “more than 160,000” Ukrainians had fled their country since the outbreak of the war.

Speaking during her Westminster Hall debate on the anniversary of the Homes for Ukraine scheme, she said: “Government figures reveal well over 4,000 Ukrainian households in England have been homeless or are at risk of homelessness in the last year.”

She added: “We urgently do need to support people either to continue to stay with their hosts or to move into their own longer-term accommodation… The reasons behind the homelessness facing many Ukrainian refugees (are) multi-faceted.

“They range from the impact of the rising cost of living for hosts, the changing circumstances of hosts and guests, the inappropriateness of accommodation, and the difficulties of being re-matched with other hosts if their relationship breaks down… As the cost-of-living crisis continues to bite, many sponsors simply cannot afford to continue hosting.”

Ministers she said “should also consider increasing the monthly payment immediately for all hosts no matter what scheme they’re on” adding it was “time to transform hope into certainty”.

Lib Dem Layla Moran (Oxford West and Abingdon) said supporting a female refugee “in her time of need has been an absolute honour and privilege”.

She said: “Ukrainians are struggling to access the private rented sector as referencing procedures can penalise people on Universal Credit or those with no credit history. I do think there is place for Government to step in pretty strongly on this point.”

Responding housing minister Felicity Buchan said since launching in March 2022, 115,800 people had been welcomed to the UK through Homes for Ukraine and when combined with the Ukraine Family Scheme “we’ve now helped to find over 163,500 people a safe and secure home”.

She added: “In recognition of the generous support of sponsors, all Homes for Ukraine sponsors will receive an increased thank you payment of £500 a month once guests have been in the country for over a year and we have extended the duration that sponsors can get thank you payments from one year to two years.”

On homelessness assistance, she said: “For the Homes for Ukraine scheme it is 2,495, for Ukrainians as a whole including the Family scheme it is 4,295…

She added: “We don’t want any Ukrainian to be in a situation where they are homeless, but if you look at the prevention and relief duties – this is a good thing, that local authorities are doing their jobs and doing them incredibly well, it is a small percentage. On temporary accommodation, the number is 735 households in temporary accommodation.”