Bath and North East Somerset has welcomed 240 Ukrainian refugees under the Homes for Ukraine (H4U) scheme over the past five months.
Under the scheme, 148 adults and 92 children and young people have escaped the war and are currently settled in safe, secure accommodation provided by kind-hearted residents. An additional 13 guests who arrived in B&NES have since left to return to Ukraine or another country.
The refugees and their sponsor families are being supported by Bath & North East Somerset Council and other local partners. An additional 81 refugees have been matched with sponsors in B&NES but are yet to make the 1700-mile journey.
Councillor Dine Romero, cabinet member for Children, Young People, Communities and Culture said: “I’d like to thank all our residents who’ve opened up their homes to people fleeing this terrible war. Many of those seeking safe haven within our communities have witnessed unimaginable horror, been separated from their loved ones and don’t know when they will be able to safely return home. The compassion shown to them by so many in our communities has been overwhelming.”
Several groups have been set up to support sponsors and guests across the area:
- Bath Welcomes Refugees has been commissioned by the council to support guests across B&NES with English language classes, creating a local network so that guests and sponsors to chat on-line and organise face-to-face social events, as well as befriending, assisting with furniture and donations and much more.
- Keynsham Ukrainian Support Network – the Information Hub is designed to provide support to sponsors. The network also helps sponsors and their guests connect.
- Saltford Community Association - as well as offering mutual support, Saltford Community Association provides every arriving family with a Welcome Pack including an iPad donated by Futura Learning and a free SIM card from Vodafone. The contents of the pack are either donated or bought using funds donated by residents to the association's Saltford Support Fund.
- Chew Valley Ukrainian Refugee Support Network – the network consists of sponsors, Ukrainian guests and volunteers, who work together to ensure all Ukrainians coming to the Valley feel welcome, supported and part of a community. As well as face-to-face meetings and events, the Network has created a private website for guests to help them find the support they need to integrate with the local community. The Network organises a free weekly drop in event for adults and children at the Hub at Bishop Sutton Village Hall. Transport to the Hub can also be provided.
A tremendous amount of work is being caried out by the council and its partners to support sponsors and their guests:
To date the council has carried out:
- DBS checks on all household members of sponsor families age 16+.
- 150 pre-arrival accommodation inspections to ensure homes meet health and safety requirements and are in a suitable condition.
- 100 post arrival welfare checks to ensure guests are safe and well. These include providing information on a range of topics from money and benefits to health services, schools and employment.
- provided via the Community Wellbeing Hub Partners, including HCRG staff, Citizen’s Advice, MIND, DHI and other partners.
- a B&NES web page for sponsors offers the very latest advice and information from nursery provision to accessing financial support.
- regular newsletters are sent to sponsors and guests.
- a small grant scheme has been launched so that community and voluntary sector groups can apply for funding for projects, events and initiatives to support refugees.
English Language Courses
- these are being offered by Bath College. In addition, Bath Welcomes Refugees are providing English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) courses in Bath, Keynsham, Midsomer Norton and the Chew Valley. A virtual course is also available for more advanced learners.
- emotional support and support for those who have experienced trauma is being offered by MIND for adults and specialist CAMHS referrals are made for young people.
- school staff are being briefed on how to support children and young people who have experienced trauma.
Under the H4U schemes sponsors were initially asked to commit to hosting their guests for six months. Many have decided to extend the invitation for a further six months, however some refugees will soon be looking for new accommodation. To support them the council is developing an accommodation strategy.
This will include:
- re-matching guests whose sponsorship ends after the initial six months to a second six-month period with a new sponsor.
- supporting sponsors who decide they would like to continue to host their guests after the 12-month period is over.
- developing a package of support to help Ukrainian guests find private rented accommodation.
As well as supporting sponsors and refugees under the H4U scheme the council also provides support for those who have fled Ukraine to stay with family under the Family Visa Support Scheme.