Non-profit raises concerns over Homes for Ukraine rollout

Adrian Williams

Adrian Williams

adrianw@baylismedia.co.uk

A non-profit that helps Ukrainians in the Royal Borough has raised ‘significant concerns’ over how the Homes for Ukraine scheme is being rolled out locally.

Safeplaces RBWM has highlighted a number of areas of concern relating to home visits, safety checks and financial help including interim payments.

In an email sent to borough councillors and MPs, Safeplaces raised concerns that ‘a large group of hosts’ have not had pre-inspections and home visits ‘were not completed in a timely manner.’

It added: “Many hosts were told [they] needed Gas Safety Certificates and were advised that the £350 ‘Thank you’ payment would be withheld until this was done.

“Gas safety certificates do not need to be provided if the boiler has been serviced in the last 12 months and the room provided is part of the family home.

“However, many are still being told to date that the gas safety certificate is a compulsory requirement.”

Safeplaces RBWM also raised concerns over interim payments, DBS checks and welfare.

“A number of hosts had to pay for DBS checks,” Safeplaces wrote. “Many remain without promised refunds.

“Guests have had to repeatedly chase the council to arrange welfare checks – required if there are children in the property,” it added.

The group said in the letter, sent on May 24, that it was unaware of any hosts that have received the £350 ‘thank you’ payment.

“Hosts have either not been requested to share their bank account details, or have been told that someone else will be in touch,” it wrote.

“Some hosts have been told that payment will be made to the bank account registered for council tax payments but a) not all hosts pay by direct debit and b) the account used should be the choice of the host, not the council.”

Another concern is children’s education. Safeplaces said the process of placing a child into the borough’s education system is ‘slow’ and many hosts are having to chase the admissions team.

“There is also a gap in the education system whereby children who are 16 are not being placed due to the GCSE/A-level examination process.

“Why is the council not bridging the gap with English lessons, translators etc? There is additional funding for each child of school age.

“There is also a total lack of assistance and signposting for people seeking to further their studies into undergraduate, graduate, or postgraduate education.”

The non-profit additionally believes the council should change its bus pass policy.

“Free passes are only being issued if the guest is over a certain age or disabled. Free transportation should be provided so the Ukrainian families can seek work, attend necessary appointments, travel to English lessons and to get their children to school, if placed out of catchment,” it wrote.

A council spokesperson said: “Homes for Ukraine is a national scheme.

“It was always going to take time to work through the national guidance and put in place extra resources and new procedures.

“The council is working as fast as practically possible but has no flexibility over the levels of payments to sponsors or guests, or the processes which are in place for the safety of both.

“We have already made the £200 welcome payments to all 176 guests that have arrived so far in the Royal Borough.

“Most of the children are in school or due to start shortly following the admissions process.

“Officers are making good progress with visiting all properties to complete the required accommodation inspections, safeguarding and other checks on a priority basis.

“Five different checks, along with relevant gas safety documentation, all need to be in place before the £350 monthly ‘thank you’ payments can be made to hosts.

“The first such payments have been completed, with more due shortly, and we would like to thank hosts for their patience.

“We’ve established two dedicated in-house Homes for Ukraine welfare officers within the housing service, who will visit and keep in touch with all participating households.

“They will identify any gaps in support and signpost to relevant council services and/or partners as required. They can be contacted via welfareteam@RBWM.gov.uk."

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