Ukraine families left homeless after relationships with British sponsors break down

Homeless person sleeping rough in central London
Homeless person sleeping rough in central London

At least one in 14 Ukrainian refugees has become homeless since June 2022 after relationships with sponsor families broke down or ended, official figures show.

Around 6,040 Ukrainian households with at least one dependent child – equivalent to at least 12,000 people – and a further 3,000 single Ukrainians had sought homeless support from councils by the end of last month, according to data from the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC).

The total of 15,000 Ukrainians forced to find alternative accommodation after being made homeless represents at least 7.5 per cent of the just over 200,000 who came to the UK either on the Homes For Ukraine programme or to join relatives under the family scheme.

It came as a report by the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) of MPs urged ministers to secure an “adequate supply of sponsors” for the Homes for Ukraine scheme in a “cost-effective way”.

Roger Gough, who speaks for the Local Government Association on refugees, said funding arrangements for councils to support not only arrivals from Ukraine but also successful asylum seekers needed an “urgent review”.

He said: “Councils work incredibly hard to support asylum and resettlement and have helped communities welcome about 200,000 Ukrainian refugees since the start of the war.

“However, the pressures of multiple asylum and resettlement schemes are still being compounded by chronic housing shortages. This has resulted in a high number of Ukrainians and refugees leaving asylum accommodation and having to present as homeless.”

Initial forecasts by the DLUHC suggested as many as 50 per cent of Ukrainians in the Homes for Ukraine scheme could be made homeless after arrangements with sponsors broke down.

The PAC criticised the Government for its lack of information on how many relationships have broken down. Just under a third of English councils do not regularly provide homelessness data to the Government on Ukrainians.

Increased risk

The MPs said: “We are concerned that the risk of homelessness among Ukrainians in the UK is likely to increase as more sponsorships end or break down.

“There is no obligation for UK sponsors to host Ukrainian guests for the whole time they are in the UK, with the UK government only asking them to commit to hosting for a minimum of six months.

“The Government has extended thank you payments into a third year to encourage them to continue their sponsorship. However, there is a risk that a Ukrainian’s relationship with their sponsor can break down.”

The report follows a Home Office decision to allow all Ukrainians who have already been granted sanctuary in the UK to extend their visas for an extra 18 months.

However, it was also allied to the closure of the Ukrainian family scheme at 3pm on Monday. The programme has allowed about 72,000 applicants to join family members in the UK or to extend their stay in the UK.

Ukrainians seeking to flee their country following Vladimir Putin’s invasion in 2022 will still be able to apply to come to the UK through the Homes for Ukraine scheme. However, the rules are being tightened so that only people who are permanently resident or settled in the UK will be able to act as sponsors.

It means Ukrainians who have come to the UK on the visas will no longer be able to sponsor family or friends under the Homes for Ukraine scheme.

The committee said delays in processing visa applications had increased since June 2022 with 63 per cent of Ukrainians waiting longer than the target of delivering a decision within 15 days. It urged the Government to set out an action plan to ensure visas were processed faster.