People who open their homes to Ukrainians fleeing the Russian invasion will get £350 a month under a “cash for accommodation” scheme, as ministers try to make amends for the UK’s chaotic response to the crisis.
In a humiliation for Priti Patel, the home secretary, who has been heavily criticised for failing to remove bureaucratic visa requirements for refugees that have been waived by other European countries, fellow cabinet minister Michael Gove announced the plan last night, calling for a “national effort” on behalf of people in desperate need.
Gove, secretary for levelling up, housing and communities said: “The crisis in Ukraine has sent shock waves across the world as hundreds of thousands of innocent people have been forced to flee their homes, leaving everything they know and love.”
Under the scheme Ukrainians who are matched and housed with a UK “sponsor” will be granted leave to remain for three years. They will be able to work, claim benefits and access public services in that time.
The UK-based sponsors, who will be able to register to take in refugees on a website to be launched on Monday, will be asked to provide homes or a spare room rent-free for as a long as they can, with a minimum requirement of six months. Those applying will be vetted and Ukrainian applicants will undergo security checks.
Last night there was some scepticism from refugee experts about whether such a system could work.
Enver Solomon, chief executive of the Refugee Council, said the success of the scheme would depend on the fine detail, such as whether households would be given support to look after inevitably traumatised and vulnerable refugees, the vast majority of whom will be women and children.
“These people are going to be highly traumatised and disoriented and you can’t just put them in people’s homes without any expert casework support,” he said.
“It’s a bit like asking people to become foster carers without having a social worker in place. There needs to be good quality specialist support otherwise it risks relationships breaking down. In the long term they will need their own stable accommodation as they may not be able to return to their homeland for a few years.”
Michael Gove called for a ‘national effort’ on behalf of people in desperate need. Photograph: Tayfun Salcı/Zuma Press Wire/Rex/Shutterstock