Braintree District Council established a strong partnership with a local community centre to help provide additional support for Ukrainian sponsors and guests within the Braintree district and assist with their integration into local communities.
Braintree District Councils Ukrainian working group identified a gap in support for Ukrainian refugees to integrate into local communities, ensuring they felt a sense of trust, safety and belonging, meeting others sharing a similar experience to them, and ways to ensure they received updated information about local facilities available.
Additionally, as guests arrived into the UK, there was feedback, both on a local and national level, that there was a demand for English language classes for Ukrainian guests, but a lack of opportunities available. This created barriers for guests around securing employment, education and integrating within the community.
Braintree District Council worked with a local community centre to set up a community meet up event as a way of helping displaced Ukrainian families and hosts to meet one another in a welcoming and supportive setting.
It also gave the council an opportunity to showcase the help and support both Ukrainian families and their sponsors can access in the community and to provide information on local organisations and facilities available to them.
The first event was held in June 2022 and was monitored in terms of its popularity and feedback received, to understand whether there was a need to continue.
Following positive feedback received, the events continued monthly thereafter and were tailored to ensure it delivered the support Ukrainian guests needed – as part of this Braintree District Council’s part-funded English language lessons, connected with the meet up events, which have proved extremely popular and beneficial for guests.
The council has been able to utilise central government’s £10,500 funding for each Ukrainian guest to set up the community meet up events and English language sessions.
The events have allowed the council to develop strong community relationships with sponsors and guests, allowing them to generate insight to expand the council’s own learning on guest’s short and long term needs so it can tailor its support and make improvements.
How is the new approach being sustained?
In order for the sessions to continue running after the positive feedback received, the council have provided funding so they can continue up until December 2022.
The initiative has continued to develop over recent months, with more partners attending offering support, local residents knitting and donating bears for children, and local businesses providing items such as food and clothes guests can take away, as well as providing free tea, coffee and cake for those who attend. The group are now organising their own events with the council’s support, including a Ukrainian Independence Day and a Ukrainian Christmas Event.
The programme has demonstrated the strength of the community within the Braintree district, and the astounding generosity and support of residents and businesses to help Ukrainians feel at home within out district . Due to these events, we have been able to organise a collection of winter clothes for Ukrainian guests as many arrived in the spring and highlighted a lack of warm clothing to our communities teams.
An advisory group is now being developed as a way of sponsors and guests engaging with the council about their experiences, advise of any lessons learnt and suggestions of any other support. The group will not only help the council understand how it can move forward with providing support for both the immediate and longer terms needs of Ukrainian arrivals but assist new sponsors and new Ukrainian guests to settle quickly into their new lives.
It is important for not only Ukrainian guests to get together but sponsors as well as they can share ideas and experiences. Experienced sponsors are now talking to potential new sponsors and supporting them.
We shouldn’t underestimate the cultural differences – the council have adapted its practices as much as possible to ensure Ukrainian guests felt comfortable in and around certain environments.
Lauren Wiffen firstname.lastname@example.org