Refugees at Home is a registered independent charity that has been providing hosting to refugees and asylum seekers since 2015.
Since the Russian invasion began we have been matching Ukrainian guests with our hosts who are willing to act as sponsors. However, the situation is complex. The following guidance sets out how we are working with the government’s Homes for Ukraine and Ukrainian Family schemes, and how we can support hosts hoping to help guests from Ukraine.
Refugees at Home is separate and independent from the government’s Homes for Ukraine scheme and the Ukrainian Family scheme. There are no formal links between us, and we do not receive any funding or support from the schemes, or from government.
However, since war broke out in Ukraine we have been working with central government, local authorities and charities such as Citizens UK, Reset and Refugee Council to share advice and good practice and to coordinate our approach where practicable. We are a ‘Recognised Provider’ for the scheme, and the government signposts some hosts and guests to sign up with us via the Homes for Ukraine website.
Refugees at Home matches hosts with refugees and asylum seekers from over 70 different countries. All of our hosting is temporary and altruistic. We act as a facilitator between hosts and guests, matching placements and providing ongoing support for hosts and throughout each placement.
We use experienced home visitors to meet potential hosts and assess homes prior to a placement being made. These visits focus on aspects of hosting such as suitability, boundaries and power imbalances and are designed to give every placement the best chance of success. They may be face to face, or online. We also provide ongoing support and advice during each placement, as well as access to social media groups and the chance to meet other hosts and guests.
Homes for Ukraine is a government initiative. It differs from our normal hosting process in that sponsors are encouraged to find their own match of a guest and to support them through the visa application process, and there is little support for hosts included within the scheme. Sponsors under the Homes for Ukraine scheme are expected to host their guests for at least six months, and are offered an optional £350 per month ‘thank you’ payment by the government.
There is much more information on Homes for Ukraine on the government’s website.
You may find that the Homes for Ukraine scheme works slightly differently, depending on where you live. Under the scheme, Local Authorities are responsible for providing wraparound guest support, including organising rematching where appropriate. As each Local Authority has only been given guidance on the scheme by Central Government, not specific requirements, there are inconsistent approaches across the UK. This means that some Local Authorities are providing less support than others.
There are other charities providing support with making matches, to different degrees. Reset are the official Government partners of the Homes for Ukraine scheme and are included as Recognised Providers, alongside Refugees at Home, Citizens UK and World Jewish Relief.
Refugees at Home has a wealth of knowledge and experience in what makes a successful placement. Our role is to support sponsors and guide them through their experience. In most instances, this is support in how to navigate your day to day experience of having a stranger who has experienced war and trauma come to stay in your home.
Occasionally, placements need to end and this is where we would guide you through how to navigate that, and the difficult emotions that it can bring about.
We are already supporting hundreds of hosts who have opened their doors to Ukrainian guests. However, hosts will need to apply for their sponsorship visa through the Homes for Ukraine website. You will need to do this on behalf of the person you are matched with as well.
Refugees at Home are not immigration advisors and we are unable to help with the visa process. Guidance is available from the government website.
If hosting through Refugees at Home you will be visited by one of our Home Visitors (either face to face or virtually). Our visits are a chance for you to meet one of our experienced team members and ask any questions. It is important to consider before you host how your guests will fit into your home and family, and that everyone is in agreement about being a sponsor. Sometimes these things are not obvious to consider until your Home Visitor raises them.
You may also be visited by a representative from your local authority. We know that Local Authorities differ in their approach – some conducting intensive visits while others are looking at more practical issues, like smoke alarms and gas certificates. These are important, but our visit is more about you as a host.
Under the government’s scheme, you must be willing to act as a sponsor for a Ukrainian individual or family, committed to hosting them for six months, and to apply for the visa on their behalf.
The government’s visa support scheme requests that the sponsor provides:
– A minimum of six months of hosting
– Assist the Ukrainian guest to arrive safely in the UK
– Your own passport details so that DBS and/or Enhanced DBS checks can be carried out against your name.
– The Local Authority will visit your home to assess its suitability (separate to any checks done by R@H)
Please check on the government’s website for information on other requirements.
This link to the visa application on the UK government website explains how the visa process works. Apply for a visa under the Ukraine Sponsorship Scheme (Homes for Ukraine) – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)
You will need to apply for visa on behalf of your guest(s). Refugees at Home cannot advise on this process. We are not immigration advisors and so it would not be appropriate for us to provide this support.
Yes, hosts who are sponsoring guests from Ukraine and are working through Refugees at Home as well as the Homes for Ukraine will be able to access the £350 p/month from their Local Authority, provided all of the government’s conditions are met. Refugees at Home does not provide this payment.
We are aware that not all Local Authorities have yet started making these payments. However, this is completely separate from Refugees at Home and so any issues around this should be taken up with the host’s Local Authority.
The visa will allow the individual to stay in the UK for three years. They will be able to live, work and study in the UK and access public funds.
They will also be able to access wraparound support from the Local Authority. This should include help with accessing schools, GPs and English Language as a Second Language (ESOL) classes.
Our team will assess the self-referred guest in line with our standard procedures. After this, we will approach potential hosts in the normal manner and share the guests’ information for consideration.
Once a host has agreed to host and act as sponsor we would introduce host and guest. From this point, the host must liaise with the guest to make the visa application. The host will need to request the relevant information for the visa application from the guest. Please be aware that guests are likely in an unstable situation and internet connectivity might be an issue. For this reason, we ask that hosts are the ones responsible for actually submitting the application. Refugees at Home is unable to support with visa applications.
Once the visa application(s) have been submitted, hosts should keep in touch with their guest so that they know when the visa is granted and can together make travel arrangements. Please copy Refugees at Home into these arrangements so that we can support accordingly, and provide us with a copy of the visa approval.
When the guest(s) arrive in the UK, the placement will be supported according to our normal standards. We will check in regularly with both host and guest and be there to provide support and address concerns as they arise.
So that we can best support the host and guest, please inform your assigned Home Visitor or Placement Coordinator as soon as issues arise.
In the event that issues arise which cannot be resolved with R@H support and a placement must end, we will support you as a host during this time. Your guest will have to present to the Local Authority for help with rematching.
We have been advised by Central Government that for people to rematch via a system outside of the Local Authority means they run the risk of leaving the Homes for Ukraine scheme. Where there are children in the family placement, the Local Authority has a duty to accommodate and may do this using their Homelessness provisions.
Normally if a placement were to breakdown we would be able to consider a new placement. However, the current Homes for Ukraine rules are that all rematching has to be made through a Local Authority. This is a specific requirement of the Department for Leveling Up, Housing and Communities, which runs the Homes for Ukraine scheme. If people rematch outside of their Local Authority they will run the risk of leaving the scheme.
Unfortunately, we are therefore currently unable to help with any rematching. Therefore where a breakdown does happen, our role is to support the host and guide them through the different emotions that can present when a placement suddenly ends.
For all placements, if someone has behaved in a way that is not appropriate or acceptable to Refugees at Home we will be unable to find move on accommodation, and in some cases hosts may be removed from our register.
Ukrainian guests may face the same issues as our guests from other countries, such as language barriers, different cultural practices, different tastes in food and so on. Please do refer to the hosting section of our website and read through our guest resources for more information on this.
However, it is important to note that there may be specific issues affecting guests from Ukraine.
Ukrainian guests are coming directly to hosting from a traumatic and precarious situation with no time ‘buffer’ such as a long journey to the UK or time in the UK asylum system which is the case for most of our guests. As the war is on-going, it is likely that guests will continue to process trauma while they are being hosted. They may lose family members or friends during the six month period. All of which will impact on mental health and how the guest interacts with the host family. Please be aware of this and if you have any concerns or worries, reach out to your placement coordinator straight away.
Ukrainian guests, will need to ﬁnd work and accommodation independently and this will be difficult for some especially if balancing care of their children, or if they are older and processing trauma. Local Authorities should help with people settling into communities and Refugees at Home will be checking in directly with the guest to assess whether further support to moving on is needed. Some of the main challenges around this are the expectations around what is available in terms of schools, housing and locations.
Our non-Ukrainian guests tend to be single people (mostly male), arriving in the UK alone. While many of our Ukrainian guests are women and children, we are looking for placements for a lot of larger families. Often there are men in the household who have been able to leave Ukraine before it became prohibited.