‘Urgent’ action needed on Homes for Ukraine sponsorship scheme

Clearer guidance is needed when unsuitable matches are made and when sponsor arrangements breakdown
27 April 2022 , Steve Smethurst

Councils need accurate information “as quickly as possible” on arrivals via the Homes for Ukraine sponsorship scheme so they can ensure sponsor accommodation is suitable and safe before they arrive, Cllr James Jamieson, Chairman of the Local Government Association, has told EHN Extra. 

“Councils are only currently being told who is arriving in their local area when matches are made and visas granted, with many reporting significant issues with this data,” said Jamieson.

He added that clarity is also required on safeguarding. “We need clearer guidance on the next steps if the accommodation and safeguarding checks find a match that is not suitable and when sponsor arrangements break down.”

Government guidance for those offering homes to fleeing Ukrainians states that safety requirements include a working smoke detector on each floor of the property, safe gas appliances, and doors and windows at entry level that lock properly. Councils are responsible for inspecting potential host properties.

Councils are also seeing a concerning increase in homelessness presentations from Ukraine arrivals and lone children arriving in the UK that need support. “Urgent work is required on how councils can work with government and the community, faith and voluntary sector so those offering their homes can be quickly matched with a family in need,” said Jamieson.

“All the authorities agreed that professionals were required to carry out the visits and the staff used have largely been EHOs.

Ian Wright, Head of Regulatory Services and Community Safety, Oxford City Council said that the Oxfordshire response has seen the County Council and all the districts co-operating to ensure the scheme works as well as possible.

He said: “A checklist was developed quickly and agreed by all the districts, as was the approach to the visits. All the authorities agreed that professionals were required to carry out the visits and the staff used have largely been EHOs.”

And while rejections have been low, with only six properties rejected out of more than 320 visited, challenges remain. A significant barrier is a lack of clarity on finance. Wright said: “Systems have had to be developed to enable cash payments of £200 per person to be delivered by visiting officers if guests had already arrived when the visit was booked. In addition, unhosted properties where vacant possession has been offered have been flagged, as community support will be required.

“Furthermore, there is no certainty whether authorities will receive funding for the cost of carrying out all the property checks. We have had to quickly shift resources from regulation of the private rented sector and disabled facilities grants into this task and there is likely to be a steady stream of properties coming into the system for months to come, so being funded for the work carried out and for what will be needed in the future is essential.”

Government figures from April 21st, 2022 show that more than 30,000 visas have been issued under the Homes for Ukraine sponsorship scheme. The scheme – which is open to Ukrainian nationals and their immediate family – was launched by the Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities in March 2022.

 

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