Explained: How you can open your home to a Ukrainian refugee

14 March 2022, 11:43 | Updated: 14 March 2022, 17:36

Homes for Ukraine programme will allow individuals, charities, community groups and businesses to bring people escaping the war to safety
Homes for Ukraine programme will allow individuals, charities, community groups and businesses to bring people escaping the war to safety. Picture: Alamy

By Emma Soteriou

People keen to offer Ukrainians fleeing the warzone shelter in the UK can now register their interest through the Government's new humanitarian scheme.

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The Homes for Ukraine scheme was unveiled by Levelling Up secretary Michael Gove on Monday, who said he is hopeful people will open up their homes to those fleeing Ukraine.

The process of matching Brits is set to take place from Friday, with the first refugees using the route set to make their way to the UK by the end of the week.

It comes as more than 3,000 visas have so far been issued to Ukrainians seeking help in the UK, with the Levelling Up Secretary Michael Gove estimating "tens of thousands" more will be provided.

Here is what the scheme is and how you can get involved in helping those escaping the war torn country.

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What is the scheme?

The Homes for Ukraine programme will allow 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.

Where do I apply?

The Government website https://homesforukraine.campaign.gov.uk has now opened for individuals and organisations to apply.

Announcing the opening of the scheme on Monday, Communities Secretary Michael Gove said: "This Government, this House, indeed everyone in the United Kingdom, continues to be in awe of the bravery of the people of Ukraine.

"The victims of savage, indiscriminate, unprovoked aggression, their courage under fire and their determination to resist inspires our total admiration. The United Kingdom stands with Ukrainian people."

He added: "But more can and must be done. To that end, my right honourable friend the Home Secretary has already expanded the family route.

"She has also confirmed that, from tomorrow, Ukrainians with passports will be able to apply for UK visas entirely online without having to visit visa application centres.

"As a result, the number of Ukrainians now arriving in this country is rapidly increasing and numbers will grow even faster from tomorrow."

Mr Gove said the "unfailingly compassionate British public wants to help further", adding: "Today we are answering that call with the announcement of a new sponsorship scheme, Homes For Ukraine."

How long can refugees stay with a family or individual?

Members of the public will be able to nominate a Ukrainian family to stay with them 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.

Will you be housing a Ukrainian, Secretary of State?

What security checks will be carried out?

The exact detail is not known, but Mr Gove has said steps will be taken to ensure people who might be "intent on exploitation" are prevented from "abusing" the new scheme.

The Cabinet minister told Sky News: "We absolutely do need to make sure, first of all, that the people in Ukraine are who they say they are, so there need to be some security checks there.

"There's been understandable concern about the scheme being exploited possibly by criminal elements. So, that's the first thing.

"Then the second thing is we do need to make sure that people here... are in a position to provide that support, which is why there will need to be security checks as well to make sure that those - and I think it would only ever be a tiny minority, but still - those who might be intent on exploitation can be prevented from abusing the system."

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".

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Is there any compensation for hosting?

Britons offering accommodation to Ukrainian refugees will receive a "thank you" payment of £350 per month.

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.

How many refugees will the UK welcome?

Michael Gove told MPs there will be no limit to the number of Ukrainians who can benefit from the Homes for Ukraine scheme.

He said: "The scheme will allow Ukrainians with no family ties to the UK to be sponsored by individuals or organisations who can offer them a home. There will be no limit to the number of Ukrainians who can benefit from this scheme.

"The scheme will be open to all Ukrainian nationals and residents. They will be able to live and work in the United Kingdom for up to three years. They will have full and unrestricted access to benefits, health care, employment and other support."

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What has been the response?

Mr Gove has said he would personally take in a Ukrainian refugee and Academy Award-nominated actor Benedict Cumberbatch said from the Baftas red carpet on Sunday that he hoped to take part in the scheme too.

But there has also been criticism, with the Refugee Council noting unlike the UK all EU countries have waived visa requirements for Ukrainians in the short term.

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".

Mr Solomon also said the programme should only be one part of Britain's response to the crisis.

"But if it's going to work, it needs to be delivered with all the right resource and all the necessary entitlements for Ukrainians - so they're able to get all the healthcare they need, access housing benefit - because the reality is, the sponsor arrangement will be a short-term measure," he said.

"This conflict doesn't look like it's going to end quickly. There needs to be a clear pathway to longer-term accommodations."

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".