When Russian troops started to move into Ukraine at the end of February 2022, the response from the European public was swift. Initially, money flooded into charities, and vans were loaded up to take essential supplies into Poland for the thousands of Ukrainian refugees. It soon became apparent however that a longer-term solution would be needed for housing, and the UK government launched the Homes for Ukraine scheme on 18 March 2022. Within the first few weeks of the scheme, a reported 200,000 people across England had signed up. But what does the scheme entail?
How It All Works
The basic idea of the Homes for Ukraine scheme is to match English families who have a spare room or two in their homes, with Ukrainian families who require housing after fleeing from a war zone. Initially, most of the refugees were women and children, as men had been asked to stay behind in Ukraine to fight. Once the refugee family had been matched to a family in England, the next step is to complete the paperwork, get the visas and organise transportation. In return for offering a home to refugees, the government is paying £350 per month to each household.
Safeguarding concerns were at the forefront of all arrangements for refugees. Government officials were worried about the potential for exploitation of people recently arrived in the UK, many of whom could not speak English. The announcement about the Homes for Ukraine scheme was accompanied by a statement from the Disclosure and Barring Service, confirming that criminal records checks would be required for all adults living in houses which would be hosting Ukrainian families.
The one confusing factor was that the government statement didn’t clarify the level of DBS checking which would be required. Usually, people hosting foreign students under the age of 18, or operating businesses like childminding from their own homes require an enhanced DBS check. All the government statement said was that it would be left up to each local Authority across England to devise their own procedures and requirements for DBS checks. Should an enhanced disclosure check be required, this involves a more detailed look into someone’s past criminal record rather than just their current, unspent convictions.
Once accepted as a sponsor household by the Homes for Ukraine scheme, guidance will be provided to homeowners about how to apply, and which documents are required to support any application. The form is not complex, but each member of the household over the age of 18 will have to complete their own application and show separate identity documents. The whole process is fairly time-consuming, and even though the DBS has assured applicants that they are working 7 days a week to try to process disclosure checks more quickly, some delays are to be expected. Most local authorities will have a dedicated team in their housing or social services team to coordinate the placement of refugee families, and these people are your first point of contact in case of any queries.