How UK's sponsorship scheme for Ukrainians works

Britain offers route for refugees without existing family links but critics want ministers to go further

What is the sponsorship scheme?

The sponsorship programme will allow people, charities, community groups and businesses to bring people who have no previous ties to Britain to the UK from Ukraine.

It adds to a separate scheme in which Ukrainians already in Britain can bring their extended family to live with them. Critics had described that offer as too narrow and bureaucratic for people fleeing the invasion by Russia.

Anyone with a room or home available will be able to offer it to a Ukrainian person or family, although any such offer will be vetted and all applicants will undergo security checks.

Applications will open on Friday.

What do hosts have to do?

Prospective hosts can register their interest starting on Monday. They will eventually have to designate a named Ukrainian they want to put up, which ministers say charities, universities or religious groups could facilitate.

They will be expected to provide accommodation for at least six months, and ministers – when asked whether they themselves would take part – have emphasised the commitment required to help look after the refugees.

How many people will come?

There is no cap on the number of Ukrainians that could be admitted, although Housing Secretary Michael Gove said he expected tens of thousands to come out of the millions who have left Ukraine.

They will be granted an initial 12-month period of residency in the UK and be eligible for work.

A group of refugees from Ukraine leaves a budget hotel in Tourcoing, France, where Britain has a visa processing centre. Getty Images

What security checks will be carried out?

People who offer their homes will be subject to Disclosure and Barring Service checks, which call up someone's criminal record and are typically used by prospective employers. Their home may be inspected

Mr Gove said the checks were necessary to prevent a "tiny minority" of volunteers who "might be intent on exploitation" from abusing the system.

Exact details of the checks on Ukrainians are not known, but Mr Gove said ministers needed to "make sure ... that the people in Ukraine are who they say they are". For the extended family scheme, Ukrainians can apply online and submit biometric data once they arrive in Britain, after the Home Office relaxed the rules.

A National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children representative said the charity did not want to see “unnecessary barriers” built into the process, but said it was "vital child protection is built into every stage".

Is there any compensation for hosting?

British people offering accommodation to Ukrainian refugees will receive a "thank you" payment of £350 ($460) per month. Mr Gove said local authority areas would be entitled to more than £10,000 per Ukrainian refugee using a fresh route to the UK.

“Additional payments” will be available to support school-age children who need to be accommodated within the education system, he said.

What has been the response?

Academy Award-nominated actor Benedict Cumberbatch said from the Baftas red carpet on Sunday that he hopes to take part in the scheme.

But there has been criticism, with politicians from across the political divide saying the UK should make a more generous offer and that the visa routes are too bureaucratic.

Refugee Council chief executive Enver Solomon told The Guardian the UK scheme was “effectively a managed migration route, which is not suitable to use to respond to a humanitarian crisis”.

“The reality is, the sponsor arrangement will be a short-term measure,” he said. "This conflict doesn’t look like it’s going to end quickly. There needs to be a clear pathway to longer-term accommodation.”

There have been also concerns about the tight timetable the government has provided, with the NSPCC calling it an “ambitious turnaround”.

The charity said it was “essential that the government works closely with local authorities, the fostering community, charities and other key local partners to ensure this sponsorship scheme is ultimately safe; has appropriate levels of support for traumatised Ukrainian children who have fled bloodshed, and ongoing assistance available for their sponsors”.

Updated: March 15, 2022, 8:24 AM
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