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Ukrainian Refugees

Volume 719: debated on Thursday 8 September 2022

Six bishops and hundreds of clergy have Ukrainian evacuees living with them, and the Church of England is using vacant vicarages in a number of places. Churches are also actively involved in recruiting new hosts where needed.

Over the summer, I was delighted to meet Reverend Peter Godden at St Dunstan’s church in Monks Risborough—England’s oldest recorded parish—to hear at first hand about some of the incredible work that the church and wider deanery is doing to support 130 Ukrainian refugees who have been welcomed to the wider Princes Risborough area in my constituency, such as English lessons, a conversation café and a children’s summer week. Will my hon. Friend join me in thanking all our churches for the work they are doing to support our Ukrainian friends? What more can the Church of England do to support churches such as St Dunstan’s in their work?

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for the interest that he takes in and the support that he gives to his local churches. It is wonderful to hear of the practical compassion in action of St Dunstan’s in Monks Risborough and St Mary’s in Princes Risborough. I know that those churches are making a big difference to the lives of Ukrainian refugees. I assure him that the Church is actively seeking new hosts where some families want to pass on that responsibility and it will keep on with this important work.

As we approach the six-month point, what action can the Church take to encourage members of their congregations to step forward—and the congregations themselves to support them—where some initial sponsorships are not renewed?

My right hon. Friend asks a typically pertinent question. I reassure him that many dioceses are developing schemes to rematch sponsors and Ukrainian refugees as the initial six-month placements draw to an end. We are also funding other support programmes for Ukrainians, for which I am extremely grateful. We must all guard against compassion fatigue.

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that my parish church in Huddersfield is playing a very good role in helping Ukrainian refugees, but in a sense the honeymoon period is over? People from Ukraine in my constituency told me last week that they need help with permanent housing, with education and with the translation of their qualifications into English qualifications. They also very much need to use their high skills to help the community.

I am grateful for what the hon. Gentleman has told the House. I know that he takes a supportive interest in what his local churches do in this important area. He is right in everything he says. The Government will play their part, and I can assure him that the Church will absolutely continue to be there at a national and local level to do everything that is needed.

I thank the hon. Gentleman for his deep interest in these matters, which is much appreciated. Following on from what other hon. Members have said about the integration of Ukrainian refugees, has consideration been given to allowing the use of parish halls free of charge for English lessons and as community hubs for small pockets of rural Ukrainians to meet?

The hon. Gentleman makes typically sensible suggestions. He has put them on the record, and I know that the Church will do everything possible nationally and locally. He has made good suggestions.