Homelessness among Ukrainian refugees in UK rises by 30% in a month

The government is being urged to offer hosts more money as an incentive to continue accommodating refugees

Ukrainian refugees children arrive at a primary school in Cambridgeshire with their mother after being offered sanctuary in the UK. PA
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The number of Ukrainian refugees presenting themselves as homeless in the UK has shot up by almost a third since last month, data shows.

More than 2,000 Ukrainian families with children and 900 individuals are classed as homeless in the UK, according to the most recent government figures. The figure is up by 800 since last month, a rise of 27 per cent.

The spike in homelessness — which has placed pressure on councils already struggling to find emergency and long-term accommodation for those on the housing list — has prompted calls for changes to the Homes for Ukraine scheme.

The programme was hailed as a major success after its launch earlier this year, with more than 200,000 homeowners signing up in the first few weeks.

The government agreed to hand a monthly “thank you” payment of £350 ($429) to those who provide sanctuary to individuals, couples, families or groups of Ukrainians in their home or second property.

But in the nine months since the launch of the programme, food and energy bills have risen sharply amid the cost-of-living crisis fuelled by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The increase in bills is believed to have been behind the decision taken by many hosts to discontinue their participation in the scheme when the minimum six-month period was reached.

As a result, there has been a sharp rise in the number of Ukrainians registering as homeless with councils across the UK.

There are fears the numbers could rise in the coming weeks as more households are expected to drop out of the scheme as they reach the six-month mark.

Michael Gove, the housing minister, is holding discussions with Treasury officials about increasing payments to hosts to reflect the rise in the cost of living, The Times reported.

A shake-up of the system is also understood to be under discussion, possibly paving the way for more cash to be awarded to those hosting a family rather than just one refugee.

Councils in Kent, Hampshire and Gloucestershire recently began offering additional payments to host families — on top of the government’s allowance.

According to the latest data, there are 2,985 Ukrainians who have presented themselves as homeless to councils. But the actual number is thought to be much higher as some councils do not provide such data to the government.

The head of the Local Government Association, the UK-wide body made up of councils, expressed concern about the spike in homelessness among Ukrainians who came to the country seeking refuge from war.

James Jamieson, chairman of the association, called for an immediate increase in payments to hosts and said councils need “urgent solutions” to spiralling homelessness problems.

“It is absolutely crucial that support to sponsors is enhanced as inflation and energy costs increase so new or existing hosts are encouraged to sponsor in the longer term,” he said.

“Council housing and homelessness services are already under significant pressures and further increases may mean families are forced to move into temporary accommodation away from the new schools, jobs and communities they have been building since they arrived.

“Councils will continue to do all they can to help those who are owed homelessness duties, but need urgent solutions to pressing housing needs in the short and the long term across all the schemes that welcome new arrivals to the UK.”

King Charles III last week opened a new centre in London where Ukrainian refugees are welcomed and offered support. The monarch unveiled the initiative during a visit to the Ukrainian Catholic Cathedral of the Holy Family in Exile, alongside Ukraine’s first lady, Olena Zelenska.

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Updated: December 06, 2022, 11:02 AM