At the outbreak of war on Ukraine by Russia, the UK government laid out a never before tried scheme that allowed those living in the UK to open up their homes to those fleeing the war and to welcome them to live with them for anything from 6 months to 2 years.
For anyone interested in being a sponsor here is some guidance and advice to get you started and help you decide whether this is right for you.
How to apply
You can apply to be a sponsor if you can provide a home or spare room rent-free for as long as you're able, with a minimum stay of 6 months.
You will need to register to be a sponsor through Homes for Ukraine: record your interest - GOV.UK.
The Home Office will complete some basic safeguarding checks and, once passed and you're confirmed as a sponsor, you will be ready to host a Ukrainian household in your home.
You'll receive £350 per month from the government plus an extra £50 per person that you are hosting. This is to help will the additional costs associated with having extra people living in your home. Council Tax discounts will not be affected.
Ukrainians arriving in the UK under this scheme will be granted 3 years leave to remain, with entitlement to work and access to benefits and public services.
What will be expected of you
The first place to look for information is the government information Homes for Ukraine: sponsor guides - GOV.UK.
As a sponsor, you'll be expected to offer space in your house or some other self-contained accommodation that you own (or have permission to use for this purpose) for Ukrainian refugees to occupy, free of charge, for at least 6 months, and up to 24 months.
Please consider how many people you can accommodate - 2 people should not be in one room unless they are:
adult cohabiting partners
a parent and child
2 siblings of the same gender if aged over 10
2 siblings regardless of gender if aged under 10.
Two people who did not previously know each other should not be sharing the same room.
Matching with your guests and first steps
The government does not currently match Ukrainians with UK sponsors so you will need to find a match yourself either through contacts you already have, social media or charities such as Opora and Reset.
There is a full list of approved matching organisations: Find a sponsor using recognised providers: Homes for Ukraine - GOV.UK.
When thinking about how many guests you can welcome and the make up of the group you need to consider:
do you have the space? You can't offer one bedroom for a family of 4, for example. Is there also enough general living space for the additional bodies?
is your home clean, dry and secure?
do you have enough sleeping space and access to bathroom and cooking facilities?
is there is anything in the property that would mean it is either too warm or too cold?
is there is any mould, asbestos or other hazardous substances?
If you feel that you have suitable accommodation, and you have matched with a family or individual then either you or they can apply for the visa, where both sides will need to provide personal information.
When this has happened, the council will be notified that the application has been made and will contact you firstlto ask you to complete a DBS application and then to arrange a visit to check your property is suitable and there are no safety or safeguarding concerns.
You and every adult over the age of 16 in your household will be subject to DBS checks. Where there are children or vulnerable adults coming to stay with you, every adult in your household will be subject to an enhanced DBS with barred lists check.
Ideally all of these checks will happen pre-arrival, but the council (and the government) recognise that this will not always be practically possible.
Transport in rural areas
If you live in a rural area, you should think carefully about what you are taking on.
The people who come to live with you will likely have no transport and limited money to be able to pay for taxi fares.
You should think about whether you live on a main bus route that allows access to services and shopping.
Welcoming your guest
Your guest will usually arrive via one of our airports and the costs around their travel are their responsibility. Some people arrive through our ports or the channel tunnel. There should be a welcome desk for Ukrainians at all entry points into the UK where immediate questions can be asked from your guests.
It's very reassuring for your guests if you are able to pick them up frrm their entry point. If you are unable to meet your guest, you should provide them with instructions on how to reach you from their chosen point of arrival.
There is also the option for them to receive free onward travel from many operators. View National Rail Enquiries - Journey Planner, however this offer changes regularly and it is best to check before travel with the chosen operator.
When they arrive at your home they will probably just want a warm meal and a comfortable bed. Your guests may be very chatty or they may be quiet and withdrawn. Both are normal and they will need time to adjust to their new surroundings.
You do not need to feed or shop for them, but you may wish to do so and you should think about whether you're able to help with things in your local community like registering with a GP, applying for Universal Credit and other benefits, looking for school places for any children, opening a bank account. This can be fairly labour intensive in the first few weeks but it will help your guests settle and become more independent.
In the first few days it will be helpful to guide your guest(s) round their local area, to learn where 'home' is and to point out local amenities, transport links and other places of interest.
Setting expectations with your guests
We highly recommend setting out your own expectations between you in the first few days/weeks.
You may want to draw up a formal written agreement, or you may prefer to clearly state verbally what your boundaries are concerning things like use of communal areas, smoking, pets or noise.
The end of your sponsorship period
We ask that when your arrangement comes to an end that you give them reasonable notice. Please also contact your council co-ordinator so they can offer as much help as possible, whether it be that they need to be rematched with another family or they are moving on to their own privately rented accommodation.
Support for you and your guests
At HDC we offer comprehensive support for you as sponsors. We have a dedicated team that are there to support you regarding any questions and worries you may have and to guide you through the process.
We offer regular Teams support meetings and opportunities to meet other sponsors too.
We have a Facebook page just for hosts. It is a private group and is called Hosting Ukrainian Families in Huntingdonshire.
Your guests will be offered the same level of support but they will also have the Barnardo's free helpline to support Ukrainian families:
Following discussion with the Association of Ukrainians in Great Britain, Barnardo's has set up the Ukrainian Support Helpline - staffed by English, Ukrainian and Russian speakers. The helpline is available to anyone fleeing the conflict in Ukraine.
Call the helpline free on 0800 148 8586 on:
Monday to Friday (10am to 8pm)
Saturday (10am to 3pm)