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‘No simple way’ for Ukrainian refugees to find permanent homes, UK hosts warn

Ukrainians need help finding permanent homes, a charity has said (Ben Birchall/PA)
Ukrainians need help finding permanent homes, a charity has said (Ben Birchall/PA)

More than a thousand UK hosts of Ukrainian refugees have signed an open letter asking the Government to make it easier for them to move into permanent homes.

The Government has been warned that “there is currently no simple way for them to find their own homes” amid pressures on social housing and the private rented sector.

Around 79,000 refugees have come to the UK under the Homes For Ukraine sponsorship scheme, with hosts expected to provide accommodation for at least six months.

Some of these placements will be approaching their end, with these refugees needing to find alternative accommodation either independently or with another sponsor.

Already, more than 1,300 Ukrainian single households and families have been assessed as homeless or threatened with homelessness as of July 2, amid placements breaking down and accommodation proving unsuitable.

Councils fear that homelessness could rise as initial six-month placements with some hosts end.

The Sanctuary Foundation, which organised the letter, said finding appropriate and affordable long-term accommodation “is one of the greatest challenges” to the scheme.

The charity published the letter on Tuesday and, as of Wednesday afternoon, it had been signed by more than 1,300 hosts who have opened up their homes to more than 3,000 refugees.

It reads: “As hosts who care deeply about the future of the Ukrainians in our homes, we ask the Government to help us ensure they are able to take the next steps towards integration in our communities.

“There is currently no simple way for them to find their own homes, with social housing and the private rental sector already stretched and difficult to access.”

The hosts are calling for the Government to take a series of practical steps to help refugees find permanent accommodation, including for Universal Credit housing allowance to be topped up for 12 months to enable refugees to remain in their local area.

They are calling for local authorities to be guarantors for those trying to rent a home, and for the Government to outline a clear re-matching process and to recruit more hosts.

And they echoed calls from the Local Government Association to increase the £350 a month “thank you” payment, which would help hosts providing accommodation for longer than six months and those “bearing the brunt of the cost-of-living crisis”.

The letter adds: “Knowing that our guests can move on swiftly and safely when they and we are ready to do so will make a big difference, and will reduce stress for those who have already faced so much trauma fleeing a war, as well as for those of us hosting them.”

Krish Kandiah, director of the Sanctuary Foundation, said it is not a “finger-wagging letter” but one from people who “care deeply about finding solutions”.

People are feeling frustrated because they are hitting issues such as not being able to rent because they have no credit history in the UK or they do not have enough money for a deposit, he told the PA news agency.

In other cases, people’s Universal Credit housing allowance is not enough to enable them to stay in or near where they are currently being hosted.

“That social network is invaluable when it comes to rebuilding a life here, when you’re so far from your normal life, your family, your loved ones,” he said.

He added: “This is a history-making moment, but we recognise there are teething problems with a programme of this scale and pace.”

A Government spokeswoman said: “The vast majority of sponsors want to provide support for longer than six months, but we are working closely with councils to ensure Ukrainians have access to suitable housing if they decide to move on.

“All arrivals have access to benefits from day one and we are giving councils an extra £10,500 per person to cover any extra costs.

“We are contacting sponsors and Ukrainians directly to outline next steps and the support available to them.”