A quarter of hosts under the Homes for Ukraine scheme in England say they do not intend to extend their home beyond the basic six-month requirement. Does that mean 75% will? That is high.
127,300 visas have been issued this way, with a further 49,700 granted under a different route for those with UK resident family members.
Actual arrivals to 15-8-22
•Ukraine Family Scheme: 33,500
•Ukraine Homes For Ukraine sponsor Scheme: 81,700
Dentist manning a till!
Scotland and Wales allowed Ukrainians to enter without waiting for individual hosts to come forward before granting visa. Many arrivals are still trapped in temporary (eg hotel/ hostel/cruise ship) accommodation. It’s striking that these people include teachers, lawyers, coders, accountants.
Dally, referred to in the story above is a dentist who was originally from Lebanon before settling in Ukraine. He has a job manning a till in a motorway pit stop but has a better offer in Cardiff. He cannot move there without Government assistance – and we need dentists.
Nearly half of the 5,087 people who arrived in Wales from Ukraine are being looked after by the Welsh Government rather than under the Homes for Ukraine scheme. Those 2,472 have been told they will get no further assistance from the Welsh Government after six months and will then have to find their own accommodation.
Six months is not likely to be long enough to establish a credit history in the UK for many prospective landlords and agencies. Nor will it be possible to build up sufficiently extended deposits or pay the incoming energy bills, especially if doing the jobs that Job Centres are pressing on them.
For all these reasons Sir Richard Harrington, who was brought in to streamline visa application processes and the Homes For Ukraine scheme, is pressing the Government to pay more to hosts than the £350 pcm currently offered. It would certainly be more sustainable than hotel accommodation.
I am a host under Homes for Ukraine
A charity acted for me as a go between for Ukrainians seeking a home and hosts considering offering a home. This enabled me and the prospective guest to meet online supported by an interpreter.
They also helped (a lot) with the paperwork and it allowed both me and the guest to set our own redlines. Mine were that I wanted a guest who had a friend or other refugee contact locally (so he or she would have someone nearby to talk to in Ukrainian and support one another). Also, I would not take in someone unwilling to be vaccinated for Covid or a smoker and, as my house is small, it needed to be someone clean and tidy in the shared spaces.
I have been very, very lucky. My guest is a delight. I liked her straight away. She had some English. She is considerate and determined to make the best of a harrowing experience. She has been with me for seven weeks and has already found work. The contract is casual but, there is potential to convert it into a full contract of employment. She is very happy to work hard and learn English. But I worry about the job in hospitality which is likely to be hit hard by the incoming energy bills. But it is tough to get fluent, and combining work and upgrading her English is tiring.
Will I keep her beyond six months?
Of course I will. She has enhanced my life in all sorts of unexpected ways. I hope she will be equipped with a lot of new skills to help her rebuild Ukraine when it is safe and time for her to return home. She has a cousin fighting at the front in Donetsk. Her sister and her children have been displaced from war-torn Kharkiv as well. Her parents live in East Central Ukraine. She has friends and colleagues displaced within Ukraine. She sees the stories of the bombing of her homeland daily. There is plenty for her to worry about.
Good news stories
So, whilst I understand why news outlets are flagging up looming problems it would be good if more time was given to the numerous heartfelt good news stories from hosts and guests. If these are not highlighted, fewer people will be willing to offer homes and discover the absolutely joy of helping fellow human beings in trouble, mutually enriching their lives with affection, laughter, new learning and companionship. There are lots of tips to help prepare for guests happily and reduce the chances of snarl-ups.
Issues with prompt payment for Homes for Ukraine
Some hosts report having waited for 11 weeks then receiving two payments at once. I can see if host circumstances are tight this would be highly problematic.
There is a cost to hosting and these are likely to rise a lot in winter when the heating goes on and when it is more difficult to dry clothes outside. Hosts supporting whole families are likely to experience that more acutely with the constant round of washing.
Most of the hosts I have talked to have provided food and toiletries for guests, not to mention a lot of practical and moral support navigating the bureaucracy of being a refugee and finding a job. It is a pretty full-time job the first weeks but very interesting.
It has been an eye opener helping navigate Universal Credit, although the work coaches have been courteous and professional. The issues are in the organisational structures.
Very tired guest working 50 hour week plus home study
I am very startled to discover that my very tired guest who is now putting in over 40 hours a week working late in hospitality plus doing 10 hours a week plus home study to upgrade her language skills so she can get a full employment contract is still expected to attend the Job Centre. Why? Because her contract is casual and her rota for the week ahead only arrives the day before.
Some of the online data forms are clunky or simply do not “fit” with these sorts of circumstances. But it is tough to get fluent whilst working 40-45 hour weeks and attending online English Language courses daily to upgrade her English so she can secure her contract. She is tired.
I wonder constantly how refugees outside the Homes for Ukraine scheme and without the support of hosts cope at all. Many are not allowed to work to enhance their chances of building a good credit record. I’m pretty sure I would feel despair. Yet these people could be the source of talent and skills that we need. It all could be so much better. I hope we learn from the Homes for Ukraine scheme.
It has been a heartwarming, humbling and expanding experience for me. My guest is part of my family now.
But some guests encounter conduct not permitted under the Homes For Ukraine scheme. The £350 pcm payment is supposed to cover housing and energy costs. Hosts should not charge. But @PMProuk supplies this story.
I can see that bills would be higher in mid-April (when Olha in this news story arrived in Brighton) than in summer. My energy bills have increased by about 25% but nothing remotely like £50 per week. In fact, I have just checked my total April bill. It was less than £90. I expect that to increase a lot next year.
Hosts are feeling increasingly concerned about this and it may affect decisions to keep guests.
I have been frank with my guest explaining that we have to keep temperatures down if Europe is not going to buy Russian fuel. And also for environmental and cost reasons.
My guest does understand as it is all for starving Russian fuel! She has a heated under blanket and I’ve left warm hoodies and jumpers in her wardrobe just in case.
But other hosts may not be so lucky. They are thinking they will have to ask their guests to make a contribution towards energy costs. Most will do so sensitively and reasonably but there are reports of stories where demands are made of guests just as they arrive and before they are in receipt of any benefit.
It is now possible to transfer guests within the Homes For Ukraine scheme, so that has changed since this article was written. There are bound to be some mismatches between hosts and guests (which could be reduced with some better early matching).
There will be some abusive hosts – small in number I think, where they try to charge improperly, or expect their guests to be a free skivvy. No doubt some guests who abuse the host welcome – again, from personal reports, small in number. But it happens.
Clear rules of engagement
Making the rules of engagement clear (eg about hosts not providing childcare and laundry/ shared space standards) before acceptance and arrival should reduce the chances of that happening, but won’t eliminate it. But for me and many many hosts, the experience has been overwhelmingly positive. I shall miss my guest when she decides it is time to move on. Until then my home is her home and my friends have taken her under their wings too. (Many hosts I have spoken to have expressed concern about the Universal Credit system.)
More efficient communication
One guest, for instance, had her Universal Credit stopped when she declared promptly and openly, making under £50 in a week cleaning. This was wrong. But it took time an effort for host and guest to sort out and correct. Others report really difficult journeys involving multiple bus journeys (and costs) and times especially when living in villages and more rural areas. The hosts often try to provide lifts instead. Applicants are strongly pressed to take casual/gig work contracts then are penalised for it (see the examples above).
Why can’t there be a quick phone call to those who are doing that work, plus proof of payment when they are finally paid instead of demanding an in-person meeting? Hardly “efficient”. Several report (borne out by my experience) that when they said they needed to improve their English to get/secure work they were told that this is NOT a priority. But fluency means more likelihood of secure contracts and less ultimate burden on the state.
Be a decent human being to them
Also, these people have undergone trauma – forced from their homes and jobs and countries – and in fear for their country their family, friends and colleagues. Some severe trauma having experienced war related losses, some brutally sudden.
Give them time to heal and find their feet. Just be a decent human being to them.