Town's support for Ukrainian refugees praised

Residents and organisations in Stafford borough have been praised for their efforts to support refugees fleeing war-torn Ukraine – but a community leader has hit out at the Government’s response to the crisis.

Stafford Borough Council
Stafford Borough Council

More than 150 people have been welcomed to the borough and offered accommodation by 67 households, members of Stafford Borough Council heard at their full meeting this month.

Kind-hearted residents have also supported Ukrainian people through donations of items and money.

But there have been issues along the way, Councillor Tony Pearce said, as he put forward a motion at the meeting. He called for more action to support Ukrainian refugees.

The motion stated: “Stafford Borough Council congratulates the many residents who have shown their support for the people of Ukraine and places on record the council’s support for Ukraine and its people. In particular, we thank those who have organised collections of food, clothing and money to help those fleeing the war.

“It is encouraging that so many people and families have offered to host Ukrainian refugees. This council will do all it can to support them and the families they host.

“The Government response to the situation has left much to be desired. Problems have included difficulty with obtaining visas, lack of financial support for local authorities and confusion over safeguarding arrangements for host families.

“The council calls on the Government to give greater financial support to local authorities and to use the Syrian Vulnerable Persons Resettlement Programme as the model for helping Ukrainian families. Further it urges the Government to treat all those fleeing war and persecution who wish to make their homes here with dignity and fairness.”

Speaking at the full meeting he said: “The response of the British people and the residents of Stafford to the war in Ukraine has been overwhelming. The response of the Government has been appalling.

“Locally we have seen residents donate food and clothing, money and most importantly their homes to Ukrainian refugees. The Government, despite its warm words, has failed refugees and their hosts on almost every count.”

But Councillor Jeremy Pert, cabinet member for community, proposed an amendment to the motion, removing the pledge that the council would do all it could to support hosts and the families they were accommodating as well as the comments on Government response and the calls for Government action. He said the suggestion that councils were not doing anything was “far from the truth” and praised the authority’s staff for their efforts to support refugees at short notice.

The amendment added an alternative pledge and was approved by fellow council members. It stated: “The council will continue to encourage everyone from central and local Government, communities where Ukrainian families are settling through to those individual hosts to continue in their efforts to support everyone looking for help and relief from war-torn Ukraine, especially as the fighting continues over the longer term and more and more people are affected.”

Councillor Pert said: “Residents and Government have come together to support those displaced by the ravages of war on individuals, communities and their country. In terms of local government, it includes responses from people like the NHS, schools getting people admitted into class as soon as possible, the county council and the borough council.

“For the borough 67 households have come forward to offer shelter to 156 individuals. Across the county two thirds of the people have already arrived as part of the Homes for Ukraine scheme and there is an additional scheme, families for Ukraine, on top of that.

“From a housing perspective the borough has done a huge amount. It has vetted sponsors as well as the families and the housing standards of the accommodation to ensure that it is fit for purpose.

“The borough is going to pay – and has already paid – £200 out as a support payment upfront and helped engage the families with community links and more local and formal services like schools and providing courses like English as a second language to ensure that they are as welcome and integrated into our communities as possible. Furthermore the borough council has also undertaken further checks to make sure that relationships were working out and that we maintain an ongoing dialogue with those families.”

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