UK cost of living crisis hampering efforts to host Ukrainian refugees

·3 min read
<span>Photograph: Purple Marbles/Alamy</span>
Photograph: Purple Marbles/Alamy

The majority of people taking part in a government scheme to house Ukrainians say the rising cost of living is hampering their ability to support the refugees, data suggests.

The figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) found about a fifth (21%) of current or previous sponsors on the Homes for Ukraine scheme reported that the rising cost of living affected their ability to provide support on the scheme “quite a lot”, while a further 9% said it affected their ability “very much”.

Just over four in 10 respondents said it affected them “a little”, while the rest said the cost of living did not affect them or that they did not know.

Just under a quarter (23%) of people who said they would only be hosting a Ukrainian for six months or less said their decision not to continue with the scheme was because they could no longer afford to and because of the rising cost of living.

Just under four in 10 (38%) said they would be encouraged to be a host for longer if there had been more support on offer.

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The Homes for Ukraine sponsorship scheme allows nationals and their relatives to come to the UK if they have a sponsor who can provide accommodation for at least six months.

Under the scheme, new arrivals receive a one-off £200 payment and their host receives a £350 “thank you” monthly payment for costs associated with helping out.

The scheme has been criticised as unworkable due to its excessive bureaucracy, as well as a “gimmick” that gives people fleeing Ukraine “false hope”.

There have also been claims that Homes for Ukraine has become a “Tinder for sex traffickers”, as experts say that UK-based criminals are targeting women and children fleeing the war.

Richard Harrington, the refugees minister, said: “These latest ONS stats show the vast majority of sponsors say they want to provide support for longer than six months, which is testament to the goodwill the British public has shown the people of Ukraine since tanks first rolled across the border.

“They will, of course, continue to receive monthly ‘thank you’ payments for up to 12 months to help with the associated costs of opening up your home.

“We initially asked sponsors to host for a minimum of six months and we are working closely with councils to ensure Ukrainians have a safe place to live if they decide to move on. We are contacting sponsors directly to outline next steps and the support available to them and the Ukrainians they are sponsoring.”

James Jamieson, the chairman of the Local Government Association, said: “Councils, sponsors and Ukrainian guests all need to know what the options are at the end of the six-month initial placement period so they can start planning now.

“We hope a number of Homes for Ukraine sponsors continue to house Ukrainian refugees with them and we are talking to government about how we might encourage that; for instance, increasing the ‘thank you’ payment to a higher amount so the sponsors can be sure it’s not costing them.

“There is a significant risk that – even if rematching is available – many Ukrainian families may need to present as homeless because of a lack of sponsors or other options.”