The darker side to Homes for Ukraine

Hosts have made sexual advances to refugees and relationships have ‘fallen apart’

The painted blue and yellow flag of Ukraine, in Leeds
The painted blue and yellow flag of Ukraine, in Leeds
(Image credit: Daniel Harvey Gonzalez/In Pictures via Getty Images)

More than 1,000 refugees have arrived in the UK under the Homes for Ukraine scheme but dozens have already seen their accommodation arrangements collapse due to “matching failures”, said government officials.

Male hosts have been making unwanted sexual advances towards female refugees, reported The Times. In one case, a woman in her 20s said that she is trying to transfer to another home after the man she matched with asked whether she had a boyfriend and if she was ready for a relationship.

“She is scared as she now wants to find another sponsor,” said a friend in a Facebook group that matches UK hosts with Ukrainian refugees.

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A source in the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, which is in charge of the scheme, told The Times that have been “several cases where the host and refugee match has failed already” and “the relationship has fallen apart”.

There have also been reports of local councils being over-zealous with their safety checks on potential hosts, with the Daily Mail saying there had been “staggering examples of red tape” for those hoping to host refugees.

During an interview on Radio 4’s World at One, the head of the Local Government Association (LGA), which represents councils and carries out home safety checks, was confronted on the nature of safety checks.

Presenter Sarah Montague said they had heard about cases of people being told to drain their ponds if they had a child coming to stay or that a family was reassigned a different home because plug sockets were too low for children.

“Is that sort of thing really stopping somebody coming from a war zone?” she asked.

LGA chairman James Jamieson said: “We recognise that somebody coming from a war zone is going to be infinitely safer in a home in the UK even if has got a little bit of damp or whatever.”

Meanwhile, a refugee group said it has a “number of worries” about the scheme, “particularly around red tape, safeguarding and resourcing”.

Writing for The i, Andy Hewett, the head of advocacy at the Refugee Council, said that the refugees include “very traumatised women and children who will need a lot of help, and often professional support”.

He added that “there’s a risk that the new scheme may not include the robust checks, training or professional support that will be needed to provide such support.”

Hewett wrote that where the relationship with the sponsor breaks down and the refugee can’t afford private rented accommodation, there is a “real risk” they could end up homeless.

He called on the government to commit to “access to benefits, without long delays” and said “we need to think about what happens when private sponsorship ends and give Ukrainians the opportunity to move into their own home if they choose to in the longer term.”

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