More funds for hosts to Ukraine refugees

Families in Essex hosting Ukrainian refugees are set to receive extra payments to help with costs to incentivise them to carry on.

As of November 14 this year, a total of 1,811 Ukrainian guests have arrived in the Essex County Council area under the Homes for Ukraines scheme, staying with 626 sponsors – although there are other Ukrainian refugees who are living in the county under alternative schemes.

Essex County Council is administering the scheme by arranging for checks on guests and accommodation, with housing authorities undertaking the required property checks.

The council is also administering the payments under the scheme – in which sponsors have been receiving £350 per month regardless of how many guests they accommodate designed to be a ‘thank you’ payment in lieu of rent.

It is not expected that this payment will be used to pay for food, since guests can pay for this out of their benefit income but anecdotally it seems that some sponsors are unable or unwilling to ask guests to pay for food and other costs.

The council has not done any research to find out what costs sponsors are typically incurring.

From a survey conducted by Essex County Council as the scheme headed into its sixth month around 75 per cent of sponsors are happy to continue placements, but many sponsors mentioned that they felt that the £350 should be increased.

The council says that if the war continues and the likelihood of placements breaking down increases then a solution in terms of move-on accommodation is likely to be needed.

It adds that the most cost effective way of providing accommodation is to maximise the length of time that guests can be accommodated under the Homes for Ukraine scheme.

The council is now expected to make a payment of £500 in December 2022 to every Essex Homes for Ukraine sponsor who has guests during part or all of December 2022 and then make an additional payment of £200 per month for all Essex Homes for Ukraine sponsors between November 2022 and March 2023.

A statement as part of a decision set to be signed off this week said: “It provides a significant boost for all sponsors and an uplift for those sponsoring in the longer term. It would be less likely to result in large numbers of placements ending after one year.”

The uplift in payments would cost around £930,000 which can be covered by the Local Authority Tariff Payment grant.

Piers Meyler

Local Democracy Reporter