People from Ukraine are now settling into homes and communities in Lincolnshire, facilitated by a range of support mechanisms put in place by local councils, agencies, and community groups.
Latest figures (as of 28 April 2022) show that so far 150 Ukrainians fleeing their country for safety reasons and seeking sanctuary in UK are known to have already found new temporary homes with 70 sponsor families across Lincolnshire. 25 arrived over the last weekend alone.
As of Thursday, April 28, there were 335 approved applications and visa matches from more than 3,200 expressions of interest from Lincolnshire households to make accommodation available for a minimum of six months through the Homes for Ukraine programme. As suitability checks continue to be made on individuals and properties and more visa applications granted, that figure is continually rising.
The Homes for Ukraine scheme relies on sponsoring hosts finding their own guests through personal connections, charitable organisations or an agency to connect with potential guests and to jointly process a visa application. There is no role councils in Lincolnshire can play in this, although they are all committed to making every provision later on in the process to ensure a safe, sustained resettlement.
Additionally, the Ukraine Family Scheme which provides for refugees to come to the UK to join the household of a family member – which is done by mutual agreement, personal arrangement and without local authority involvement.
To support the Homes for Ukraine resettlement of refugees in Lincolnshire, a multi-agency countywide Ukraine coordination group has been set up to plan resettlement support arrangements. This is working with sponsors, refugees, refugee groups, Wellbeing Lincs, other statutory agencies and community and faith groups putting in place mechanisms to facilitate access to benefits, registration for schools and healthcare, language assistance, familiarisation with the local area etc. There is also the locally-specific Lincolnshire Community Foundation Appeal through which everyone can contribute to refugee welfare and extend a Big Lincolnshire Welcome.
Phil Roberts, Deputy Chief Executive of North Kesteven District Council and Chairman of the Lincolnshire Resettlement Partnership, said the Lincolnshire response by both individuals and households in offering up accommodation and the many partners contributing their time and effort in ensuring safe resettlement was an incredible gesture of solidarity.
“With thousands of people opening up their hearts and homes and contributing so much, both financially and in kind, Lincolnshire is expressing the warmest and most generous of welcomes in every way. Currently Lincolnshire has the highest number of visas issued through the Homes for Ukraine sponsorship scheme within the East Midlands, which really does illustrate the generosity and determination of county residents to bring people to safety and offer them sanctuary.
“We are very aware of frustrations at the complexity and rate of progress in this understandably detailed process, but hope that both sponsors and guests are assured by the diligence being afforded by everyone involved to ensure it leads to safe, secure and sustainable resettlement that provides comfort and certainty to hosts and refugees alike.”
Working under guidance set by Government, 250 property inspections have been completed and more than 370 Disclosure & Baring Scheme (DBS) checks initiated by officers of Lincolnshire’s councils which through the Wellbeing Lincs service are also defining and signposting to additional wraparound care and routes to support.
Working with the Lincolnshire Voluntary Engagement Team (LVET), the partnership is looking to develop a greater understanding of the capacity for community and faith groups to support host families and the guests in ways which are sustainable, can facilitate resettlement and further extend the sense of a Big Lincolnshire Welcome.
This will aid in the co-ordination of activity and ensure that all needs are met.
Voluntary, community sector and faith organisations are asked to provide LVET with information about what they are doing or proposing to do to provide support to refugees. A pro-forma can be obtained from project development manager Emily Ward by emailing email@example.com.
Sponsoring households are asked to ensure they notify Lincolnshire County Council of their guest’s arrival as soon as possible, using the information provided to them in their Welcome Letter. This will facilitate the prompt processing of the associated payments and next-step arrangements to ensure the resettlement moves on smoothly.
Further information about the processes and support mechanisms can be found at Lincolnshire County Council's Ukraine response webpage. Regular checks are advised in the event of updates on national and local guidance.
The multi-step approach in offering-up accommodation can be summarised as:
- Households consider their capacity to host an individual, family or number of refugees and register their interest with the Government. It is important to read the Sponsor FAQs before applying.
- You make arrangements through personal connections, charitable organisations or an agency to connect with potential guests and jointly process a visa application.
- This will prompt safeguarding and security checks (at a national and international intelligence level) involving anyone aged 16 or over in both parties.
- Sponsors will receive an initial letter by email explaining next steps and sharing helpful information to support their guests upon arrival.
- While the visa application process is underway, and in parallel to it, a check will be made of the proposed accommodation by a district council housing officer to ensure its suitability in respect of space, heating, ventilation etc.
- Once the visa is granted and travel permits arranged, travel arrangements can be co-ordinated.
- A check through the Disclosure & Baring Scheme (DBS check) will follow, which requires copies of certain documentation (taken on the home visit referenced above).
- As soon as guests arrive it is essential for sponsors need to notify Lincolnshire County Council of their arrival.
- Guests and sponsors will then receive information via email, to apply for the interim payment for guests and the thank you payment for sponsors.
- Arrival notification also triggers a follow-up "safe & well" visit from Lincolnshire Fire & Rescue to offer advice, any specialist equipment such as stairgates etc and verifies the arrangement to unlock the sponsor payments process.
- Follow-up contact will be made throughout the hosting arrangement to ensure everyone’s welfare and wellbeing
An animated summary can also be found hosted on Lincolnshire County Council's YouTube channel (please be aware, this video is currently unlisted, and will not turn up if you try searching Lincolnshire County Council's YouTube manually).