Hundreds of visas issued for Ukrainians to stay with Black Country hosts despite cost-of-living crisis

The people of the Black Country have once again shown themselves to be a generous bunch as it emerges hundreds of visas have been issued for Ukrainian refugees to stay in the region.

Passengers line up for passport control in the UK.
Passengers line up for passport control in the UK.

However, the news comes as a survey reveals that hosts need more financial support from the Government.

Since March 2022, Ukrainians fleeing the Russian invasion have been able to apply for a visa to stay in the UK under the Ukraine Sponsorship Scheme.

The scheme, also known as "Homes for Ukraine", allows UK citizens to host refugees for a minimum of half a year.

As of August 2, 87 visas had been issued for refugees staying with people in Wolverhampton; 62 visas had been issued for refugees staying with people in Walsall; 121 visas had been issued for refugees staying with people in Sandwell, and 84 visas had been issued for refugees staying with people in Dudley.

But as the cost of things like food, energy and fuel continues to rise, hosting is becoming increasingly difficult, and the aforementioned survey suggests hosts need more help from the Government.

Across the UK, more than 17,000 sponsors responded to the questionnaire between July 7 and July 14, with more than 70 per cent saying the crisis has impacted their ability to provide support.

Among those who said they were only planning on hosting for six months, or were not sure, 40 per cent said an increase in the £350 monthly payments they receive would encourage them to provide accommodation longer term.

The Local Government Association, a membership body for local authorities, said better information was needed on what options are available after the six-month initial placement period.

It added that the "thank you" payment should be increased to reduce the burden on sponsors.

Separate data shows that across England more than 1,000 Ukrainian households have been made homeless or put at risk of homelessness up to the end of June, including 780 families with children – although there is no data on the number of homeless refugee households in the Black Country specifically.

Of those provided with a homelessness duty by the local council, around a quarter had subsequently avoided or been taken out of homelessness.

The Refugee Council, a charity which advocates for those fleeing conflict, said that support and advice was needed to stop arrangements from breaking down and refugees becoming homeless.

The charity's CEO, Enver Solomon, added the cost-of-living crisis was an "additional burden" to those who have already faced significant hardship.

The survey shows that many hosts supported their guests beyond providing accommodation – and have found the experience to be a positive one.

More than nine in 10 hosts have helped set up services for those staying with them, and 58 per cent say they have helped with sorting school and university places.

Data from the Department of Education shows 27 refugee pupils had been offered school places in Wolverhampton as of July 26, on top of 20 in Dudley and 11 in Sandwell.

Refugees Minister Richard Harrington said the survey results were "testament to the goodwill the British public has shown the people of Ukraine".

He stressed that hosts will continue to receive monthly “thank you” payments for up to 12 months to help with the costs of opening up their home.

“We initially asked sponsors to host for a minimum of six months and we are working closely with councils to ensure Ukrainians have a safe place to live if they decide to move on," he added.

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