How to Help Ukrainian Refugees in the UK
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How to Help Ukrainian Refugees in the UK

Since the war in Ukraine began, approximately 11 million people have been displaced from their homes, resulting in much more chaos and confusion for those affected by the war.

Thankfully, support and aid have been offered from across the world, leading to some of the refugees being able to find temporary housing or a safe passage out of their war-torn homes.

There have been several touching videos emerging on social media where families have been welcomed into the homes of others and schools have opened their arms to pupils that just a day before were unsure if they would ever go to school again.

Such gestures, aid and assistance show the world isn’t all a bad place and that many people are willing to help. If you have been looking into how you can help those fleeing the war or how the scheme for accepting refugees into your home works, read on.

Housing Ukrainian refugees in the UK

In March, the government launched two initiatives where British citizens could host Ukrainian refugees in their homes. The Homes for Ukraine scheme and the Ukraine Family Visa scheme.

The two schemes available are open to everyone but have certain caveats. Both the sponsorship scheme and the family visa scheme aim to assist both the people leaving Ukraine and the people that have kindly offered to help them.

At the time of writing, there were 21,000 Ukrainian refugees in the UK with over 70,000 applications approved out of 107,000 that need to be processed.

This has been met with concern, as the backlog is only likely to increase. There is a belief that many have applied for refuge but chosen to stay in neighbouring countries for the time being, hoping to return to Ukraine sooner rather than later.

What is the Homes for Ukraine scheme?

The Homes for Ukraine scheme allow UK families to house Ukrainian refugees for at least six months within their homes. Open to those that have connections to those in Ukraine but are not related to them, it has seen vast levels of interest and a backlog of applications build up. At the time of writing, there had been close to 66,000 applications with just shy of 40,000 visas issued. Of this amount, just 6,000 refugees have made it into the UK.

How does the Homes for Ukraine scheme work?

The Homes for Ukraine scheme, also known as the sponsor scheme, works by having you apply to host a Ukrainian individual or family. You can apply if you have a spare room and can offer accommodation for at least six months. You must also be a British citizen or someone that has been certified leave to remain in the country for at least six months.

The refugee or their family does not need to be a family member but should be known to the host. However, if you wish to help but do not know anybody fleeing the warzone, you can register interest via the govt website. This will then lead to a refugee being matched to you or to an organisation offering support.

When applying, along with matching the above requirements, you can only be granted approval as a sponsor if you can also provide proof of identity through a passport, driving licence or biometric residence permit. Further details of suitable forms of ID can be found when applying.

Once an application is successful and the sponsored family or individual arrives in the UK, the host is entitled to claim £350 per month to assist with costs. No costs are expected to be paid by the refugee although they can claim £200 for subsistence costs.

None of these elements of financial assistance are expected to be repaid and where your guests are eligible to work, they can also apply for universal credit. Likewise, if you are in receipt of any benefits, they are not affected by the £350 monthly payment.

Whilst the accommodation is to be offered for at least six months, the government support to households lasts for twelve months.

To further assist, local authorities are also receiving £10,500 per refugee for support services with those of school aid receiving more.

What is the Family Visa Scheme?

Where the sponsor scheme allows for households to be matched with Ukrainian refugees not related to them, the Family Scheme allows you to help relatives. As long as you have British nationality, indefinite leave to remain, settled status, or proof of permanent residence, you can offer assistance to family members caught in the conflict.

At the time of writing, this scheme had seen just under 11,000 Ukrainian refugees arrive under this scheme from the 28,500 granted visas.

How does the Family Visa Scheme work?

Launched in March, the scheme initially was only open to refugees that had immediate family members in the UK. This has since changed to offer assistance to a wider range of refugees.

These changes have meant that now, a Ukrainian refugee can apply if their UK family members are:

  • An immediate family member
  • An extended family member
  • An immediate family member of an extended family member

Once the visa is granted, those on family visas will be able to live, work and study in the UK for up to three years.

What if my Ukrainian relative does not have a passport?

If the refugee(s) do not have a Ukrainian passport they can apply to be part of this scheme by attending a visa application centre. These have been set up throughout Europe and can be found in:

  • Budapest, Hungary
  • Chisinau, Moldova
  • Warsaw, Poland
  • Bucharest, Romania
  • Paris, France

Can my Ukrainian relative get a visa with their passport?

If the family member or members do hold a Ukrainian passport, they will not need to attend a visa application centre but will still need to apply to be accepted on to the family visa scheme. This can be done by heading to this page of the govt site. One thing that is worth noting is that applications for the UK scheme cannot be fulfilled if an application has also been made for the EU settlement scheme family permit.

What is the EU settlement family permit?

If the refugee has a family member that lives in the UK but has settled or pre-settled status under the EU settlement scheme. An application for this permit is an option.

This means that if the family member is from the EU, Switzerland, Norway, Iceland or Liechtenstein but lives in the UK, help is available. To apply the applicant must still be outside the UK whereas with the family visa scheme, a Ukrainian refugee can already be in the UK prior to applying.

Once granted a refugee can come to the UK for up to six months, work and study and come and go as much as they wish within that time.

Are there any costs to any of these schemes?

There are no application fees for any of these schemes for either the families offering to host or the refugees looking to come over to the UK. The only costs will be the costs of living and any transportation that may be needed.

How will I know if my home is suitable for Ukrainian refugees?

All applications to house any refugees will be vetted by the government via DBS checks and the local authority will check that the accommodation being offered is suitable. The Ukrainian refugee will also undergo security checks before being matched with a host.

I have a second home; can I use it for refugees?

Your current residence may not be large enough to have you house anyone else, but should you own a second property and are willing to utilise it, Airbnb is looking to temporarily house 100,000 refugees within their listed properties. You can volunteer your home by joining Airbnb. Just be aware that those looking to use your home will still be subject to visa requirements etc.

How else can I help Ukrainian refugees?

If you are not in a position to be able to help with housing a refugee, there are countless other ways you can support families in need. Various community groups within towns and villages have organised collections of essentials that are then being transported to those in need.

The British Red Cross has launched a specific appeal for Ukraine, whilst Sunflower for Peace is accepting donations to help fund first aid backpacks for doctors and paramedics on the front line. There are lots of charities doing great work that can be made easier by a simple donation. Some of which are listed below:

Doctors without borders:

A Ukraine-based charity that is providing treatments for a variety of medical problems within the area.

Nova Ukraine:

Another based within the warzone itself, the amazing work by this charity is providing civilians with everyday essentials and supplies.

Voices of Children:

A specialist charity that helps children overcome the psychological damage that war brings.

This is an awful time for so many people and we feel for all of those involved. The generous nature of people has been truly inspiring, so much so that in some cases, people are moving into bigger houses to accommodate their Ukrainian family members. If you are looking to secure a sale in order to house a larger number of people, contact us today, the team at SOLD.CO.UK can offer an instant valuation and have you moving quickly. Likewise, should a new property be high on your agenda, browse our portfolio of nationwide properties to see what you can find.

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