- Close to 17,000 Ukrainians have arrived in London on the Homes for Ukraine visa scheme
- Sponsors, voluntary sector and health partners, local businesses and communities have gone above and beyond
- However London boroughs continue to face challenges in delivering high-quality support to Ukrainian arrivals
One year on from the Russian invasion of Ukraine and the launch of the Homes for Ukraine visa scheme, London boroughs are thanking London’s local communities for offering sanctuary and support to thousands of Ukrainians arriving in the capital.
Close to 17,000(1) Ukrainians have arrived in London on the Homes for Ukraine visa scheme since the scheme was launched on 14th March last year. Thousands more have arrived via other schemes such as the Ukraine Family Visa.
Sponsors in London have responded in a phenomenal way as the conflict unfolded. As well as sharing their homes so that Ukrainians have a safe place to stay, many have gone above and beyond by collecting people when they arrive at UK airports, setting up bank accounts for arrivals, helping them register with GPs, connecting them with community groups and helping people with finding work.
In return, many Ukrainian arrivals have shared their food, culture and language skills and have stepped up to support subsequent arrivals.
London boroughs have played an important role in carrying out accommodation and safeguarding checks, supporting arrivals with integration, working with schools to accommodation extra pupils, organising job fairs to help arrivals find work and liaising with local NHS services to ensure health needs are met. This has been possible thanks to commitment and collaboration across local government, the voluntary sector, the NHS and local businesses.
Anyone with an interest in becoming a Homes for Ukraine sponsor is being encouraged to let their borough know, as there is still a need for more people to join this remarkable effort.
Although there is much to be proud of, new survey data from London Councils reveals that boroughs continue to face significant challenges in delivering high-quality support to Ukrainian arrivals.
The survey showed that the top five issues that boroughs said were a priority for Ukrainians coming to London were housing, arranging school places, setting up a bank account and enabling access to English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) classes, followed by employment support.
48% of the 25 boroughs surveyed said that housing was either the first or second main priority for Ukrainians, 40% said the same for enrolling children in schools, 40% for the setting up bank accounts, 28% for ESOL and 24% for access to employment.
21 boroughs (84%) of boroughs said housing was the main challenge for local authorities supporting Ukrainians. The latest figures show 1,210 Ukrainian households have presented as homeless in London since 24th February 2022 according to data published by the Department of Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC).
Persistent gaps in support have also been highlighted by this survey. Out of 25 boroughs, 68% (17) identified housing, 52% (13) highlighted access to mental health support, 48% (12) access to employment and 36% (9) boroughs highlighted ESOL as being areas where Ukrainian arrivals are struggling to access what they need.
Cllr Claire Holland, London Councils’ Executive member for Communities (Welfare, Empowerment and Inclusion), said:
“I would like to thank Londoners for their selfless and compassionate welcome of Ukrainians to the capital. People across London’s communities have stepped up to the plate, offering all kinds of support.
“Historically London has been proud of its role as a place of sanctuary to those fleeing the direst circumstances and it is amazing to see that ethos shining through even as we face our own challenges as a city.
“Boroughs have also been working hard to support Ukrainian arrivals but face huge barriers which are linked to the long-term issues that blight our city. It is no surprise that finding suitable affordable accommodation for arrivals once their sponsorship arrangement ends is the biggest mountain to climb. We are determined to do more, with Government and other partners, to overcome these challenges.”
London Councils is urging Government to work with London boroughs on developing more initiatives to increase affordable housing in London, which will in turn enable London to respond holistically to migration pressures.
Ensuring better alignment between the Homes for Ukraine visa, the Ukraine Family Visa and other schemes would also improve the experience of individuals and families arriving from Ukraine and result in better outcomes.
Boroughs are also keen to work closely with government colleagues to address visa processing issues and discuss how to prevent and mitigate any risks of exploitation to Ukrainians.
Notes to editors