Brits opening homes to Ukrainians will receive £350 per month
Michael Gove urged people to “join the national effort” to help refugees and take part in the Homes for Ukraine scheme
Britons offering homes to Ukrainian refugees through a new humanitarian route will receive a “thank you” payment of £350 per month, the Government has announced.
The Homes for Ukraine scheme, to be rolled out this week, will allow individuals, charities, community groups and businesses to bring people fleeing the war to safety – even if they have no ties to the UK.
Sponsors can nominate a named Ukrainian individual or family to stay with them in their home, or offer a separate property for them to use rent-free.
It comes as the Government has faced criticism over the speed and scale of its efforts to bring fleeing Ukrainians to the UK.
People sponsoring refugees through the new uncapped route will be required to commit to the scheme for a minimum of six months, but are encouraged to keep up the offer for as long as they can.
Those offering accommodation will be vetted and Ukrainian applicants will undergo security checks.
As a “thank you”, sponsors will receive payments of £350 per month. A website gathering expressions of interest is set to launch on Monday.
The Government said it is also working to enable communities, the voluntary sector and charitable and religious organisations to sponsor groups of Ukrainians.
Michael Gove, the Levelling Up, Housing and Communities Secretary, said the UK “stands behind Ukraine in their darkest hour”, and urged people to “join the national effort” to help refugees.
But Labour cautioned that “too many questions remain unanswered” about the new scheme.
Shadow levelling-up secretary Lisa Nandy said it was unclear what support would be offered to vulnerable children and older people, whether provision would made for unaccompanied children, and what help would go to local government, sponsoring organisations and housing providers.
She said if Britons were required to have a prior connection to a Ukrainian family to sponsor them, that would be “a severe limitation”.
“The pandemic showed that in a crisis we can step up as a country,” she added.
“We stand ready to do that again. So far ministers have behaved like these are ordinary times, but these are extraordinary times and we need extraordinary measures.”
Mr Gove 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 behind.
“The UK stands behind Ukraine in their darkest hour and the British public understand the need to get as many people to safety as quickly as we can.
“I urge people across the country to join the national effort and offer support to our Ukrainian friends. Together we can give a safe home to those who so desperately need it.”
Ukrainians who have sponsors will be granted three years’ leave to remain in the UK, with entitlement to work and access public services.
Meanwhile, Nicola Sturgeon and Mark Drakeford have said both Scotland and Wales are willing to become “super sponsors” for Ukrainian refugees.
In a letter to Mr Gove, they also renewed their calls on Westminster to waive all visa requirements for Ukrainian nationals trying to get into the UK.
The governments in Holyrood and Cardiff said super sponsorship would enable Ukrainians to get clearance to enter each country quickly and be housed temporarily while they work with local partners to provide longer term accommodation, safeguarding and access to services.
Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi announced on Saturday that online lessons will be made available to 100,000 refugee pupils as they transition to “life and safety” in the UK.
He had told BBC’s Question Time earlier in the week: “What you are seeing now is a surge in our capability to take more Ukrainians.
“I can tell you in my own department in education, I have a team that’s already making plans for a capacity of 100,000 children that we will take into our schools.”