Where to start and what to consider
The UK Government have launched a new scheme to offer welcome to Ukrainian refugees Homes for Ukraine. This is a brand-new scheme and some aspects of how it will work remain unclear.
Welcoming a refugee – or a refugee family – into your home is a truly wonderful thing to do. Thank you for thinking of offering the hospitality. JRS UK have co-ordinated a small hosting scheme for refugees for nearly a decade: we have experience of matching and supporting volunteer hosts and refugee guests, and seeing the transformative difference it can make to someone’s life – both for refugee guest and volunteer hosts.
This said, it isn’t something to be entered into lightly.
We’ve collated all the information we know so far about the government’s scheme, and some considerations for you and your family, on these pages in the form of FAQs. We’ll keep these pages updated as we learn more about the government’s scheme.
We have no more information than what is on the government’s website about the scheme at this stage. We expect it will be updated regularly.
We encourage you to take a read of their FAQs here: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/homes-for-ukraine-scheme-frequently-asked-questions
"The government's new scheme Homes for Ukraine is a positive step in encouraging hospitality towards refugees, but it does leave many unanswered questions, with details not yet worked out."
Sophie Cartwright, Senior Policy Officer JRS UK
Hosting is based on the principle of hospitality: extending warmth and welcome to a guest. Hosting should be like inviting any other guest to stay at your house or in your community. In hosting a refugee guest, you’re committing to offering a safe and secure place to stay, facilities to wash, and somewhere to cook and eat.
These and your offer of friendship will go a long way!
Refugees who arrive under the Homes for Ukraine scheme will have access to mainstream welfare benefits and will have the right to work. It is not clear at the moment how they will be supported to access these benefits or look for work. We expect that charities already providing support to people in these areas will also support new arrivals, although their capacity is very likely to be stretched.
It is worth remembering that people fleeing from Ukraine have very recently suffered intense trauma. They have fled their homes, livelihoods and likely left family members behind in a situation of extreme uncertainty and danger. You should be prepared for the possibility of the refugee(s) you are hosting experiencing psychological trauma which may require medical attention.
There may also be language and cultural barriers – some of which may be immediately obvious, others may take time to learn and get to know. At this stage, it is not clear what/if concrete English language support will be available, and this will also likely vary across the UK.
No, chances are your guest will need – and want – alone time, just like you will. It will take time and patience to build these rhythms together. We suggest that you are open-minded going into the hosting placement and flexible to the needs of the person/people you are hosting.
Incredible friendships can form as a result of hosting and many of JRS hosts have remained in contact with refugees they have previously hosted. However, this is not guaranteed to be the case. Individual characters, personalities and background also play a big part in how interactive a guest will be with their host.
Sometimes short stays of 3-6 months are sufficient for refugees to get their bearings of a new country, to find belonging in a new community, and to find support networks. In the Homes for Ukraine scheme, the government are asking hosts to commit to providing accommodation for a minimum of 6 months.
It’s unclear at this stage what will happen after the initial 6-months the UK government is committing to.
At the moment, when you register as a host through the Homes for Ukraine website you need to name the person you would like to host. The government is not allocating refugees to hosts.
Charities, faith groups and other organisations like JRS are currently evaluating whether they may be able to serve as a link between willing hosts and refugees looking to come to the UK.
We will update this page as soon as we know in what capacity JRS may be able to contribute to this response.
At the moment we really don’t know how long it will take for people to start hosting Ukrainian refugees through the Homes for Ukraine scheme. Our experience of other schemes that worked to bring refugees directly to safety in the UK, for example Community Sponsorship, has shown that it can take some time to get the systems set up.
The speed at which people will be brought to the UK is dependent on a number of different variables: bureaucracy and the visa application process (unlike many other European countries, the UK has not waived visas), the number of people who express a desire to come to the UK, refugees’ ability to travel from where they currently are and the suitability of the placement you have to offer. All these factors may mean that your offer to host someone is not taken up immediately.
This can be difficult to understand when you are seeing people in urgent need of protection on the news each night. However, we do also know that the need for support is not going to go away overnight. So please do be patient as we are sure that your hospitality and generosity can definitely be of help in some shape or form.
From the information that has been provided so far, it doesn’t appear the government will be providing any training or ongoing support for people who sign up to host Ukrainian refugees. As with support for the refugees themselves, it is likely that the charity sector will step in in some form to support hosts. This could be on a local level or on a larger scale nationwide depending on which organisations have capacity for this type of support.
JRS UK is currently evaluating how we can most effectively contribute in this area and will update this page as soon as we have more information.
JRS UK has over 30 years of experience supporting those who seek sanctuary in the UK. We are very conscious of the fact people fleeing from conflict and persecution in Afghanistan, Syria, Yemen, Ethiopia and many other countries across the world, also have the right to protection, hospitality and a warm welcome in the UK.
The majority of our work focusses on supporting those who have been failed by the asylum process and found themselves destitute or detained for immigration purposes. This work continues on a daily basis and we are committed to advocating for immigration policies that promote integration and enable people to rebuild their lives here.
If you are interested in hosting refugees from countries other than Ukraine on a temporary basis, please find more details of our At Home hosting project here.