Briefing Note of the Head of Libraries and Migration
Note: A representative from the Association of Ukrainians Great Britain, a host and three Ukrainian guests have been invited to the meeting to share their experiences.
The Scrutiny Board considered a briefing note and received a presentation from the Head of Libraries and Migration which provided an update on the local implementation of the UK Government ‘Homes for Ukraine’ scheme.
The Homes for Ukraine scheme was launched on 14 March 2022 by the Secretary of State for the Department of Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC).
Coventry City Council and the voluntary and community sector were continuing to work in partnership to ensure the necessary local authority functions were in place to provide sanctuary to Ukrainian people and families arriving in the city and the on-going support required.
The City Council continues to deliver its 9 key functions under the Homes for Ukraine scheme. These include safeguarding DBS checks on all hosts, accommodation checks for suitability and safety of properties, administering of interim payments to guests, provision of education, service referrals, employment and benefits support, homelessness assistance, community integration and administration of ‘thank you’ payments to hosts.
Ukrainian guests continue to arrive in Coventry, but in smaller numbers. So far, 390 guests had been welcomed, of which 71 were children under 18. A central registration portal managed by DLUHC had been set up which provides information about hosts and guests, including potential guests.
The briefing note provided further information on the support for guests, English for speakers of other languages (ESOL) and employment support, education, employment, leisure activities, support for hosts and communication.
The Coventry Refugee and Migrant Centre (CRMC) has been commissioned to facilitate the matching process between potential hosts and guests and to provide any associated support as necessary.
The Coventry Ukrainian Community and the Ukrainian Catholic Church have supported the newly arrived guests by offering pastoral support, weekly coffee mornings with events and outings and have been extremely supportive of the city council.
The Homes for Ukraine scheme was in its second year and has been running efficiently, however there were a few challenges and some unknowns which were creating uncertainty for the guests and the support services.
- Growing speculation that the scheme would be wound down in March 2024
- If the war was to end, implications for continued support for those who did not want to return to Ukraine straight away or for those who arrived towards the end of the scheme
- Uncertainty for those who had enrolled in English classes and/or were looking for employment
- Whether there would be an extension to the current Ukraine visas which are issued for 3 years?
- Resource implications for local authorities to provide continued support
The Board welcomed and listened to the invited guests who shared their views and their moving personal experiences. The guests expressed their deep appreciation for all of the support they had received.
Members asked questions, made comments, and sought assurances on a number of matters including:
· greater clarity on future funding for the scheme beyond March 2024
· greater clarity around the extension of visas, including for students completing further education
· an update on employment and transferrable skills
· English for Speakers of other Languages (ESOL) courses
The Board thanked the invited guests for sharing their emotive experiences and wished them well.
The Board also thanked and commended the Migration Team for their continued work in welcoming and supporting the guests and hosts and their ongoing work with partner organisations.
The Board requested that a letter be sent to the Government, on behalf of the Board, and in conjunction with the Cabinet Member for Housing and Communities, requesting greater clarity on future funding for the Homes for Ukraine scheme and whether the current 3 year visas would be extended.
RESOLVED that the Scrutiny Board:
1. Notes the Briefing Note and presentation on Homes for Ukraine scheme.
2. Thanked the invited guests for attending and sharing their personal experiences with the Board.
3. Requests that a letter be sent to the Government, on behalf of the Board, and in conjunction with the Cabinet Member for Housing and Communities, requesting greater clarity on the future funding for the Homes for Ukraine Scheme beyond 2024 and whether the 3 year Ukraine visas issued would be extended.