SOME sponsors of Ukrainian refugees are feeling “morally arm-twisted” by the Government, after being asked to continue hosting them for longer than they had originally agreed, the head of a refugee charity has said.
The director of the Sanctuary Foundation, Dr Krish Kandiah, was speaking after the Refugees Minister, Lord Harrington, told an audience of sponsors that he would be sending them all thank-you letters for taking in Ukrainians, and asking them “if possible to extend for another six months”.
He also expressed the hope that, as Ukrainians found employment, they would “move into the private rental sector”. He said that he had been meeting with landlords’ groups to facilitate that process.
More than 79,000 people from Ukraine had arrived in Britain under the Homes for Ukraine Scheme, the Government announced this week. When the scheme was launched in March, sponsors were asked to offer space “for at least six months”. Sponsors receive monthly thank-you payments of £350 for up to 12 months’ hosting (News, 10 June, 24 June).
Lord Harrington made his request in a pre-recorded interview with Dr Kandiah for a webinar for sponsors and guests. About 1800 people watched the event live, and the video has been viewed on YouTube more than 4100 times.
Some of those watching posted angry comments in the chat box. “We could do with some hard facts and policy about future housing. . . [Harrington] offered nothing other than platitudes,” one wrote. Another related that her local-authority housing department had told her that her guests could not apply for council accommodation for two years.
A third said: “If I don’t want to extend from the agreed six months I will be responsible for a mother and five-year-old with autism being homeless.” Another said: “Some landlords have said that they have to give 6-12 months’ rent in advance!!” Others said that they were unable to have their relatives to stay as long as their Ukrainian guests remained.
Dr Kandiah told the Church Times: “The tone from some people was just really angry. The Government’s written this thank-you letter to them, which is lovely, but when you’re in an angry mood, people read that as an arm-twist, a moral arm-twisting to force people to do longer, and they’re saying, ‘I’ve already done six months, why are you asking me to do more?’”
He said that many sponsors had had very positive experiences of hosting (News, 29 July), but that moving into rented accommodation would benefit guests, because “people having their own sense of autonomy and agency is really important for recovery” from trauma.
A survey by the Sanctuary Foundation found that 88 per cent of 645 respondents had tried to help their guests to find longer-term accommodation, but they encountered difficulties such as finding affordable accommodation, sourcing a deposit, and providing three-monthly wage slips to demonstrate a good credit history.
Figures released by the Office for National Statistics last week suggested that one quarter of sponsors did not want their guests to stay beyond six months. Of 17,700 sponsors surveyed, 19 per cent said that they wanted to end their current hosting arrangement after six months, and six per cent after less than six months.
A government spokesperson praised the “selfless generosity” of sponsors, and said that the majority were choosing to host beyond the initial six months. “We are working closely with councils to ensure Ukrainians have access to suitable housing if they decide to move on.”