Those sponsoring Ukrainian refugees say they need more financial support as the cost-of-living crunch bites, reports Correspondent Neil Connery
Seven in ten previous or current UK sponsors of Ukrainian refugees say their ability to provide support has been curbed by the cost-of-living crisis, figures have suggested.
Around 21% of people who have or are currently hosting Ukrainians in their homes said the rising cost of living has affected their ability to provide support “quite a lot”, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) reports.
An additional 9% said it has affected their ability to help “very much”, while 41% said it has been affected “a little”.
Some 26% said it has not affected their ability to help at all, while 3% replied “don’t know”.
It is the first time the ONS has published data on sponsors under the Homes for Ukraine scheme and it warned that the figures are experimental.
The Homes for Ukraine sponsorship scheme allows Ukrainian nationals and their relatives to come to the UK if they have a sponsor who can provide accommodation for at least six months.
The ONS surveyed all UK adults registered with the scheme in collaboration with the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC).
Some 17,702 people responded, with almost three-quarters (74%) currently hosting, 4% having previously hosted, 18% with their first guests due to move in, and 3% planning to host in future.
One-third (33%) of those with current or previous guests reported meeting them through social media, while 23% used a matching service.
More than half (56%) of registered sponsors were female and the most common age range was between 50 to 69 years.
Some 43% of registered sponsors were working full-time, while 21% were retired.
Almost all (99%) current or previous sponsors said they have regularly provided extra support to their guests, such as food, childcare, taking them to appointments, and financial help.
The same proportion said they have incurred extra costs due to hosting.
These include higher water, gas and electricity costs, additional food spending, costs of purchasing bedding and toiletries for their guests and extra transport costs.
Some 10% of the hosts said their guests have contributed financially, with 9% saying this was towards food or groceries.
The survey identified variation around how long current sponsors want to continue hosting – 6% said they wanted the arrangement to last less than six months, almost a fifth (19%) expected it to last six months, while 23% intended to provide a home for longer than a year.
Of current sponsors who wanted the arrangement to last six months or less, 23% said they did not plan to continue hosting because of the rising cost of living or because they could not afford it.
Around 60% said they had only intended to provide short-term accommodation.
Of those who planned to provide accommodation for between six and 12 months, 70% said continued £350 “thank you” payments each month would encourage them to host for longer.
Asked what originally encouraged them to apply for the scheme, most said they wanted to help people fleeing a war zone.
A minority (10%) said they were motivated by the monthly £350 thank you payments.
Refugees minister Lord (Richard) Harrington said: “These latest ONS stats show the vast majority of sponsors say they want to provide support for longer than six months, which is testament to the goodwill the British public has shown the people of Ukraine since tanks first rolled across the border.
“They will, of course, continue to receive monthly ‘thank you’ payments for up to 12 months to help with the associated costs of opening up your 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. We are contacting sponsors directly to outline next steps and the support available to them and the Ukrainians they are sponsoring.”
The Local Government Association (LGA) called for the Government to consider increasing the monthly thank you payments for those who continue hosting for longer than six months.
Councils are concerned about the number of hosts who have indicated they do not want to continue.
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LGA chairman James Jamieson said: “Councils, sponsors and Ukrainian guests all need to know what the options are at the end of the six-month initial placement period so they can start planning now.
“We hope a number of Homes for Ukraine sponsors continue to house Ukrainian refugees with them and we are talking to Government about how we might encourage that; for instance, increasing the thank you payment to a higher amount so the sponsors can be sure it’s not costing them.
“There is a significant risk that – even if rematching is available – many Ukrainian families may need to present as homeless because of a lack of sponsors or other options.”