Many Ukrainian refugees in York ‘living very successful lives and want to stay’
The government’s Homes for Ukraine visa scheme saw households across the country offer accommodation to Ukrainians following Russia’s invasion of its neighbour in February 2022. In total, 323 people have joined the Homes for Ukraine scheme in York, with 181 households hosting overall.
City of York Council leader Coun Keith Aspden praised the residents who had opened their doors to those fleeing the war, while Coun Darryl Smalley said York’s response had been “remarkable”.
Coun Smalley added during a meeting of the executive committee: “I know speaking to some hosts, it’s completely transformed their lives. Thank you to our friends from Ukraine – I hope that they know that they’ve made an immeasurably positive impact on the city and their stay will be forever part of the city’s history.”
A report to the council notes that many hosts believed they were only signing up to a six month offer of accommodation – and there is now pressure on the council to support hosts by helping guests move into private accommodation.
Labour group leader Coun Claire Douglas questioned how Ukrainians could stand on their own two feet in the city when private rents were so high. Using the money the government has provided to local authorities, the council is to provide a set of incentives to private landlords, including a bond guarantee scheme, rent in advance payments and golden hello payments, to encourage them to rent their homes to refugees.
Of the 110 Ukrainians who have left York’s Homes for Ukraine scheme already, 78 have moved into private properties, 25 have returned to Ukraine and nine have moved elsewhere in the UK. Fewer than five have had to be housed in temporary accommodation after becoming homeless.
The council has received around £3 million from the government to support Ukrainians, but Coun Aspden said it was “simply not enough”.
Temporary accommodation manager Ann-Marie Douglas said: “A lot of the Ukrainian individuals and families do have very good jobs. Some of them still work online for companies back in Ukraine and some of them have got employment since they’ve been here. A lot of them speak very good English. A lot of the Ukrainian guests have gone on to have very successful lives here. We do know some that want to go home when the conflict allows, but there are others that really want to settle here.”
Coun Denise Craghill said the scheme could be a model for a “more humane asylum system” for those fleeing persecution and war from other countries.
She added: “The fact that our Ukrainian guests, quite rightly in high view, can access training, benefits, undertake work, access homeless support if they need, to settle down and become part of a new place – it’s such a stark contrast to what’s available to most asylum seekers.”
Non-Ukrainians seeking asylum are not allowed to claim benefits or work in the UK.