13 March 2023
Ukrainians in Wales still in need of housing and support
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One year on from the launch of the Welsh Government’s Super Sponsorship Scheme, the British Red Cross warns better infrastructure is needed to support Ukrainians to rebuild their lives in Wales.
The charity’s report Fearing, fleeing, facing the future: how people displaced by the conflict in Ukraine are finding safety in the UK, reflects on the successes and challenges of the UK's response to people fleeing the conflict in Ukraine, including in Wales.
The Super Sponsorship Scheme allowed Ukrainians to select the Welsh Government as their sponsor, receive a visa and travel immediately to Wales. The exceptionally high demand for the scheme and a shortage of suitable accommodation forced the Welsh Government to suspend the scheme in June 2022.
There’s much to be celebrated in the way the Welsh government supported people arriving from Ukraine. For example, it has provided funding for wrap around support for people who came to Wales through the Ukraine Family Scheme, in partnership with the British Red Cross. This helped to address disparity between support people could receive through the Homes for Ukraine and Family Schemes.
However, the British Red Cross warns the schemes didn’t always have the infrastructure needed to meet demand and calls on government at UK and Welsh levels to rectify this for future schemes.
Kate Griffiths, British Red Cross Director for Wales, commented:
“The Super Sponsorship Scheme should be celebrated for allowing people to escape the conflict in Ukraine. But one year on, it’s clear the scheme hasn’t been able to meet some basic needs for people seeking refuge in Wales.
“The Welsh Government must build on the warm welcome it’s given to families so far and help them into safe, suitable and affordable accommodation so they can start to rebuild their lives. It should work with the UK Government and the WLGA to establish schemes to help Ukrainians into private rented properties by meeting the upfront costs and acting as guarantors when needed.
"It's also important for governments at every level to reflect on lessons from the past year, to improve schemes for Ukrainians still settling in Wales and the design of safe routes for people seeking protection in the future.”
Ukrainian families at risk of homelessness
The British Red Cross also has concerns over the risk of people from Ukraine becoming homeless, due to barriers including a cost-of-living crisis, an expensive private housing market and a benefit cap that is most challenging for large families.
It’s been reported that at least 80 Ukrainians are seeking homelessness support from Welsh local councils, but the true figure is likely to be much higher as only 14 of 21 councils fed into the report.
Across the UK, displaced people from Ukraine have been at risk of homelessness due to the cost-of-living crisis, challenges securing private accommodation and the benefit cap.
The British Red Cross is calling on the Welsh Government to monitor and publish the number of Ukrainians at risk of homelessness, so that it can provide support to those who need it and prevent the numbers from growing.
Paul’s experience of supporting people displaced from Ukraine
Paul, 61, who is currently living in Caerphilly, is part of the Red Cross volunteer team for the Ukraine Support Line. He takes calls every shift from people who are confused, scared and often traumatised.
“The majority of the calls I take from refugees are those looking to access schools and healthcare. There are a lot of mothers with children, as well as elderly people that have managed to make it safely out of Ukraine.
“Being able to help them, even in the smallest of ways, is so rewarding. Problem solving together and helping to take away someone’s problem is so worthwhile. Help with finding work and opening a bank account are also very common questions.”
Given that many of the people Paul speaks to do not speak English, it’s not uncommon for a child to be the one helping their parents or guardians with the initial call.
“That’s when it really hits home,” he says. “Hearing a small child, asking such adult questions. I try to be empathetic and make sure they have everything they need to feel comfortable on the call.”
British Red Cross calls for action and clarity from UK government
The British Red Cross is also calling for further action and clarity from the UK Government to support people displaced by the conflict in Ukraine and prevent thousands more people being pushed into poverty and homelessness. The charity is urging the UK Government to:
- Make sure both hosts and displaced Ukrainians under the Ukraine Family Scheme receive the same support as those on the Homes for Ukraine Scheme
- Immediately increase monthly payments for all hosts in line with the rising cost of living
- Work with national and local governments to share best practice and rapidly develop ways to prevent homelessness and help people into the private rented sector. This should include schemes supporting Ukrainians with rent deposits
- Clarify the details and allocation of the £150 million one-off funding for local authorities so they can address growing housing needs
- Deliver on its 2022 commitment to allow people on the Ukraine Family Scheme to be rematched with hosts who offer their homes through the Homes for Ukraine Scheme
Notes to editors
1. Wales had initially committed to sponsoring up to 1,000 people displaced from Ukraine, but received more than 5,300 applications through the Super Sponsorship Scheme. As of 7 February 2023, 6,437 arrivals had reached Wales out of a total 8,762 visas issued through both the Super Sponsorship and individual sponsorship schemes
2. Source on application numbers: Welsh Government (2022). ‘Wales as a super sponsor’. Retrieved from: gov.wales/wales-super-sponsor
3. Source for arrivals in Wales and England homelessness figures: 9 Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (2023), Homelessness management information – Ukrainian nationals: England 24 February – 27 January 2023. Retrieved from: gov. uk/government/publications/homelessness-management-information-ukrainian-nationals-england
4. The British Red Cross is the UK’s largest refugee service provider. Over the last year, it has supported more than 60,000 Ukrainians in the UK with help including emergency cash, emotional support and SIM cards. In addition, the charity’s refugee services have helped more than 2,000 Ukrainians in the UK who are struggling with accommodation, food and basic supplies.