All you need to know about the scheme for Britons to house Ukrainian refugees

The Homes for Ukraine scheme has been launched with no limit on the number of Ukrainians who can be offered shelter in Britain.

14 March 2022

A sponsorship scheme has been launched allowing people and organisations to offer Ukrainians fleeing the war a home in the UK.

Communities Secretary Michael Gove set out details of the Homes for Ukraine programme in the Commons on Monday, saying the number of Ukrainians now arriving in the UK is “rapidly increasing” and that the numbers will “grow even faster from tomorrow”.

– What is the scheme?

The Homes for Ukraine programme allows individuals, charities, community groups and businesses to bring people escaping the war to safety – even if they have no ties to the UK.

Anyone with a room or home available can offer it to a Ukrainian individual or a family, though those offering will be vetted and Ukrainian applicants will undergo security checks.

Mr Gove said that initially the scheme will “facilitate sponsorship between people with known connections” so it can be “up and running as soon as possible”, but added that it will “rapidly” expand by working with charities, faith and community groups.

Previously only Ukrainians with family members already settled in the UK could come.

– How long can refugees stay with a family or individual?

Members of the public providing accommodation to Ukrainians must do so for at least six months.

Sponsored Ukrainians will be granted three years’ leave to remain in the UK, with entitlement to work and access public services.

Russian invasion of Ukraine graphic

– What security checks will be carried out?

Mr Gove said the Government wants to “minimise bureaucracy and make the process as straightforward as possible, while also doing everything we can to ensure the safety of all involved”.

Sponsors and all adults in their households will need to submit to security checks and possibly also safeguarding checks.

The suitability of the accommodation may also be assessed by their local council.

Ukrainians will be subject to “standard” security checks, according to the website, with biometric checks made after they arrive in the UK to avoid delays.

Mr Gove has said steps will be taken to ensure people who might be “intent on exploitation” are prevented from “abusing” the new scheme.

A spokesperson for the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC) said the charity did not want to see “unnecessary barriers” built into the process, but “it is vital child protection is built into every stage of the Government’s and local authorities’ response to this crisis”.

Paul Anticoni, chief executive of World Jewish Relief, said the protection of those who have had to leave their homes – many of whom are women and children – “has to be a priority for any government or agencies that are involved in accommodation”.

– Is there any compensation for hosting?

Those offering a place to stay will receive an optional tax-free monthly payment of £350 which will not affect benefit entitlements or council tax status.

The “thank you” payment is limited to one payment per residential address.

Hosts should not charge any rent.

Mr Gove has also said local authority areas will be entitled to more than £10,000 per Ukrainian refugee using the fresh route to the UK.

“Additional payments” will be available to support school-age children who need to be accommodated within the education system, he said.

– Do sponsors provide anything other than accommodation?

Sponsors are not expected to provide meals or cover the costs of food and living expenses for their guests, unless they wish to do so philanthropically.

The Government will provide information to sponsors so that they can point their guests to organisations who can help them access benefits, register with a GP and with school placements.

– Who can be a host?

Sponsors can be of any nationality and any immigration status as long as they have permission to be in the UK for at least six months.

Anyone with a spare room, or separate self-contained accommodation that is unoccupied and available for at least six months can volunteer to help.

– Who can be a guest?

The website says someone is eligible if they are a “Ukrainian national or the immediate family member of a Ukrainian national, and were resident in Ukraine prior to 1 January 2022.”

The scheme is open for adults and children within family units.

– How do you apply?

Anyone who already knows a Ukrainian they want to sponsor should get in touch with them and prepare to fill in a visa application. The visa application system will go live on Friday.

Those who do not know someone they want to host can now register their interest on the website homesforukraine.campaign.gov.uk.

The Government will work with charities, faith groups and universities to match potential hosts with people from Ukraine.

More detailed guidance for sponsors will become available in the coming days, according to the website.

Anyone registering will receive updates on the security checks, information on the status of the arrangement and the role of the local council in providing wider support.

(PA Graphics)

– How many Ukrainians are expected to be helped through the scheme?

The Government is setting no limit, saying the UK will welcome as many Ukrainians as wish to come and for whom there are sponsors.

Members of the public are being urged to come forward and help if they can.

In less than an hour, 1,500 people had already registered for the scheme, Mr Gove told MPs, adding that he hopes the first Ukrainians to receive support under the project will arrive within a week.

– What has been the response?

Shadow communities secretary Lisa Nandy said Labour was relieved to hear Mr Gove would announce the sponsorship scheme after weeks of delay, adding: “A press release is not a plan and we are really deeply concerned about the lack of urgency.”

Ms Nandy insisted the visa application process could be simplified, telling Mr Gove: “We could keep essential checks but drop the excessive bureaucracy.”

Mr Gove, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps and Academy Award-nominated actor Benedict Cumberbatch are among those who have said they might apply to the scheme, while Boris Johnson and Health Secretary Sajid Javid have indicated they will not.

The Government has faced widespread criticism for its response to the refugee crisis so far, with critics noting that unlike the UK all EU countries have waived visa requirements for Ukrainians in the short term.

The Refugee Council chief executive Enver Solomon told The Guardian the UK scheme was “effectively a managed migration route, which is not suitable to use to respond to a humanitarian crisis”.

“This conflict doesn’t look like it’s going to end quickly. There needs to be a clear pathway to longer-term accommodations,” he said.

There have been also concerns about the tight timeframe the Government has provided, with the NSPCC in its statement calling it an “ambitious turnaround”.

The charity said it was “essential that the Government works closely with local authorities, the fostering community, charities and other key local partners to ensure this sponsorship scheme is ultimately safe; has appropriate levels of support for traumatised Ukrainian children who have fled bloodshed, and on-going assistance available for their sponsors”.

More from Perspective

Get a free copy of our print edition


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Fill out this field
Fill out this field
Please enter a valid email address.
You need to agree with the terms to proceed

Your email address will not be published. The views expressed in the comments below are not those of Perspective. We encourage healthy debate, but racist, misogynistic, homophobic and other types of hateful comments will not be published.