Latest figures show more than 280 Wiltshire households have been matched with Ukrainian refugees as people fleeing the war-torn country start arriving in the county.
Approximately 1,500 households registered for the Homes for Ukraine scheme in Wiltshire. Currently, 288 homes have been matched with 794 individuals and 307 visas have been issued.
There have also been 57 school applications, 40 primary and 17 secondary, with three already started school and more expected to join classes after Easter.
Wiltshire is one of the highest unitary authorities in the country to receive visa applications and has drafted in additional support to help carry out the necessary checks including accommodation and welfare and suitability checks.
The council has put in place caseworkers and is working on payment mechanisms for sponsors and emergency support for new arrivals. Officers are working alongside partners to provide sufficient school places, as well as working closely with the NHS, Department for Work and Pensions and town and parish councils.
Sponsors providing homes for refugees are being advised they don’t need to contact the council when a match has been made as the government provides the information so DBS and accommodation checks can be carried out. However, once the guests have arrived the council is asking for sponsors to email firstname.lastname@example.org so support can begin straightaway.
The government is separately issuing the visas for Ukrainian refugees. The checks, which local authorities have been asked to carry out, can wait until the guest has arrived as the Home Office will undertake their own checks prior to the guests’ arrival to speed up the process.
Wiltshire Council will continue to carry out the required checks and the team will be in touch with sponsors to arrange them, but these should not delay the issue of the guests’ visas.
Meanwhile, voluntary groups and charities are helping to coordinate responses and developing ways to ensure that as families arrive they have the support they need. Community hubs are being set up across the county to provide key support.
Cllr Richard Clewer, Leader of Wiltshire Council said, “I want to thank our communities who are looking at ways to provide support as we welcome Ukrainian refugees into Wiltshire. We know across Wiltshire there are plans for community hubs to help co-ordinate local efforts to make refugees feel at home. Also, many of our schools will be preparing to welcome Ukrainian pupils and we are supporting them with this. We are also looking to provide English language support where necessary.
The fact that we’ve had to draft in extra support for this work just goes to show how much people in our county want to help, and we’re working hard to carry out our checks as quickly as possible.”
Alongside partners, the council has produced a welcome pack available on the council webpage Support for Ukraine – Wiltshire Council. The webpage has general information on providing support as well as frequently asked questions for those involved in supporting the refugees and for people who want to find out more. It provides local information to sit alongside the government information for refugees Welcome: a guide for Ukrainians arriving in the UK.
The government has also produced a pack for sponsors.
The government’s Homes for Ukraine scheme offers a route to those who want to come to the UK and who have someone willing to provide them with a home. Individuals, charities, community groups and businesses can volunteer accommodation.
Sponsors can provide accommodation for as long as they are able and for a minimum expectation of six months. Those arriving need to meet standard security checks. Sponsors and all adults in the sponsoring households will also be subject to security checks and may also be subject to safeguarding checks. People interested can record their interest at www.gov.uk/homes-for-ukraine to receive updates and more information on how to apply.