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Homes for Ukraine Scheme: Update

Volume 724: debated on Wednesday 14 December 2022

Today I announce measures to update the Homes for Ukraine scheme. This scheme has been a significant success. Although the initial roll-out of visas was slower than the Government would have liked, over 100,000 Ukrainian guests are now safe in the United Kingdom, and 37,500 more have valid visas and may choose to travel to the United Kingdom if circumstances change. The sheer number of applicants and of British families willing to open their homes to those seeking shelter is truly extraordinary.

The Government are committed to protecting this route to safety into its second year, but we need to do so in a way that is sustainable considering the wider pressures on public finances and the UK’s overseas development assistance budgets. We are therefore setting out today a series of updates. These measures taken together are designed to recognise the contribution made by sponsors while also ensuring the sustainability of the programme over the longer term and to provide certainty to all those who are supporting our guests here in the UK.

“Thank you” payments

Hosting is a very significant commitment. The Government are enormously grateful to all those who have volunteered to share their home with Ukrainian people fleeing war. Without the generosity of all our British sponsors, we simply would not have been able to give shelter to so many of those in need. In recognition of this, I am announcing today that the £350 “thank you” payments, will be extended from 12 months to a maximum duration of two years. The UK Government will also increase the minimum “thank you” payments for hosts from £350 per month to £500 per month, once a guest has been here in the UK for 12 months.

This additional financial support is aimed at helping existing hosts to continue with their sponsorship, as well as new hosts who come forward to offer a home to a Ukrainian individual or family.

Some local authorities are already uprating “thank you” payments using their own resource, and this is a measure we fully support. Our new package shows our strong desire to recognise the contribution made by sponsors, to help them with the rising cost of living and incentivise further sponsorships and rematching.

Funding for local authorities

Since the Homes for Ukraine scheme launched in March 2022, the UK Government have provided £1.1 billion to councils through a tariff for each arrival in their area. This funding is available for councils to support Ukrainian guests and their sponsors. Given a fraction of Ukrainian arrivals return to Ukraine, after arriving in the UK, and the need to manage public finances at a time of significant economic challenge for the UK and the global economy, the Government will reduce the tariff for each local authority. Councils will continue to receive the existing year 1 tariff to support those Ukrainians who have already arrived, as previously set out.

From 1 January 2023, councils will receive funding of £5,900 for each new arrival to support guests and their sponsors, in addition to the “thank you” paid to sponsors. Local authorities will continue to receive separate funding in 2022-23 for the Ukraine education tariff under the rates and terms previously set out—a per child tariff of £3,000 for early years, £6,580 for primary and £8,755 for secondary and payments calculated on a pro-rata basis—and the Ukrainians families will also continue to receive Government support on skills training, jobcentre access and welfare payments. The Department fully recognises the many pressures on local authority budgets and at the autumn statement the Government announced a further £6.5 billion to be made available for local government to deliver core services over the next two years.

The Department will also provide £150 million of new UK-wide funding in the 2023-24 financial year to local authorities and devolved Governments to help support Ukrainian guests move into their own homes and reduce the risk of homelessness. Local authorities are best placed to understand the support needed for local communities, and as is typically the case for various local authority funding, they will also be able to use this funding to support other people at risk of homelessness. This funding will be allocated between the different parts of the UK in relation to their proportion of Ukrainian guests. I will be writing to local authorities and my counterparts in the devolved Administrations with more details on this shortly.

Local authority housing fund

Today, I am also launching a £500 million local authority housing fund, which will provide capital funding directly to English councils in areas that are facing the most significant housing pressures as a result of recent Ukrainian arrivals. These local authorities are facing housing challenges on the back of their generosity, which unless alleviated will further impact existing housing pressures. This fund will allow them to address the immediate pressures as well as build a sustainable stock of affordable housing for the future. This fund will also be used to provide homes for up to 500 Afghan families currently living in bridging hotels at a significant cost to taxpayers. Whilst helping to fulfil the UK’s humanitarian duties to assist those fleeing war, the fund will create a lasting legacy for UK nationals by providing a new supply of accommodation for councils with which to address local housing and homelessness pressures.

The UK Government continues to work with the Ukrainian Government, the devolved Governments, local authorities and charities and voluntary groups to deliver the Homes for Ukraine scheme and support sponsors and their guests.