I know many of you have volunteered to accommodate Ukrainians through the government Homes for Ukraine Scheme, and some of you have been in contact this week expressing frustration at how slowly the system is moving. I thought it might be useful therefore to update you on the state of play and how you can help.
As you’re probably aware, the Homes for Ukraine scheme is predicated on housing a named individual/family. So as well as registering as a potential sponsor, you may also want to make contact with a group like Cambridge4Ukraine or the Sanctuary Foundation who can put sponsors and Ukrainian citizens in touch with each other, and help with the visa application process.
Once the City Council receives notification of a sponsorship offer it then has to carry out a DBS (vetting) check on the host and also an accommodation inspection to make sure it offers an appropriate level of comfort. If you are planning to be a host, it might be useful to read the council’s checklist now and rectify anything that needs work so as to speed the process up. The accommodation must:
- be kept clean and in a reasonable state;
- have adequate kitchen and bathroom space;
- have access to drinking water;
- have a working smoke detector on each floor of the property – single point battery smoke detectors are acceptable at ground floor and first floor level with mains wired detection required at second floor level i.e., in relation to any loft conversion.
- have any other fire safety precautions suitable for the building e.g. fire doors or escape routes as appropriate (further information on making a home safe from fire;
- have a working carbon monoxide detector in any room containing a solid fuel burning appliance (e.g. a coal fire, wood burning stove);
- have sufficient heating to keep the property at a comfortable temperature;
- have safe gas appliances, fittings and flues (e.g. central heating boilers, fires, cookers and their associated parts), which have been Gas Safety checked within the last year by a Gas Safe contractor;
- have safe and working electrics, which a qualified electrician can help with if you are unsure;
- be almost entirely free of damp or mould;
- have doors and windows at entry level that lock properly;
- be easy and safe to move around in, without i.e., excessively steep staircases that may cause harm.
The City Council will also be responsible for issuing a £200 subsistence payment to the Ukrainian guest on their arrival, the £350 monthly ‘thank you’ payment to the host, follow-up welfare contact and as a ‘backstop’ (as for any other resident) including emergency housing if the relationship between the host and guest breaks down. Meanwhile, the County Council will be responsible for ensuring adequate educational provision, necessary social care, etc.
The City Council is preparing a welcome pack to help new arrivals navigate this byzantine system.
Central government is providing funding of £10,500 per person to the County Council, which will be shared with the district councils to cover these additional costs they are incurring. All the information about successful applications is also going to the County Council in the first instance, to then be passed on to the districts. Officers are positive that this coordination can run smoothly, given the systems and relationships which were set up during the pandemic, although it is yet another example of how our multiple tiers of local government generate extra bureaucracy to be dealt with.
There is also the memory of how central government promised local government that all the additional costs it incurred due to Covid would be compensated for, but Cambridge City Council was left with a shortfall of £7million…
Taking our time
In conclusion, I want to reassure everyone that in Cambridgeshire officers are working to the absolute best of their abilities – within the constraints of the national scheme – to settle Ukrainians as speedily as possible. Again, I am reminded of the early days of the pandemic which saw a great grassroots upsurge in desire to do something to help their neighbours, but we had to take time to work out the best ways of doing that safely and effectively. That’s even more important in the current situation, bearing in mind the vulnerability of those who will be arriving amongst us.
Thank you to those of you who have so generously offered to act as a host. Please do get in touch if you have any further queries. For those who are not in a position to offer accommodation, remember that there is also a real need for financial contributions to the relief effort, which can be made via the following charities and many others working in this area: