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General debate on Ukraine, House of Commons, 14 November 2022

Councils have a proud history of welcoming new arrivals so that they can build new lives in the UK and they are already helping to support new arrivals from Ukraine and their sponsors.

Key messages 

  • Councils have a proud history of welcoming new arrivals so that they can build new lives in the UK and they are already helping to support new arrivals from Ukraine and their sponsors.  This includes helping families settle into their communities and access public services, including schools, public health and other support.
  • Councils also offer a huge range of expertise that can and has informed the development and delivery of that support. Since the beginning of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, councils have been working closely with the Government to ensure support for new arrivals from Ukraine is put in place quickly and at scale, and families are kept safe. However, there are still concerns for councils as large numbers reach the end of the initial sponsorship period and as the situation in Ukraine intensifies. These need joint work across local and central Government as a matter of urgency. 
  • In February, the LGA published survey data which highlighted the large numbers of homelessness presentations by Ukrainian refugees. Since April, homelessness duties to Ukrainian households have rapidly increased over 6 months, and of the councils who submit figures to DLUHC, a vast majority are now reporting homelessness duties owed to Ukrainian households. Latest data (from 4 October) suggests that Homes for Ukraine scheme has overtaken the Ukrainian family scheme in numbers of duties owed for the first time, which indicates more and more sponsors are leaving the scheme. The biggest reason for approach for both schemes is that arrangements are breaking down. However, councils also continue to report high numbers of homelessness preventions with Ukrainian households. 
  • Councils will continue to do all they can to help those who are owed homelessness duties, but it is important to note there is a severe shortage of accommodation across the country. We have been emphasising to government that homelessness is not a route to finding somewhere to live and very likely that families will end up in B&B accommodation. Urgent joint work is needed to provide more support to sponsors to persuade them to remain in the scheme, and to be clearer to hosts and their guests about the challenges in finding affordable housing across the UK. There needs to be clear routes to support access jobs, English language support and childcare to enable those wanting to be able to move out of sponsorship to be able to cover accommodation costs. 
  • Given pressures on accommodation, we are also calling on the Government to consider a short-term increase in sponsor payment to increase supply of accommodation given cost of living increases, as well as working with councils to provide support to the maintain their host relationship.  
  • In addition, we are seeing the interaction between the Ukraine schemes, the Afghan schemes, asylum and unaccompanied asylum-seeking children (UASC), is resulting in some local areas losing political and public support for resettlement. Fundamentally, we need overarching programme arrangements for all refugee schemes covering both Ukrainian routes, both Afghan routes and existing resettlement schemes and other arrival schemes such as Hong Kong British Nationals and Chagossians. These all need a strong link to asylum and lone asylum seeking children. The current crisis in asylum support is potentially impacting on councils’ capacity to support and source accommodation for other groups of new arrivals. 
  • Any future scheme should coordinate engagement by central government with regions, nations and local government, as well as planning and procurement. It should take a “heat map” approach to assess the pressures on particular areas to inform planning and procurement. It must also work out solutions to the big cross-cutting issues especially supply of accommodation