Hundreds of visas issued for refugees to stay in Newcastle – as new survey finds more support needed for hosts

Hundreds of visas have been issued for Ukrainians to stay with hosts in Newcastle – but a new survey reveals hosts across the country need support from the Government to continue as costs soar.

Hundreds of visas have been issued for Ukrainians to stay with hosts in Newcastle – but a new survey reveals hosts across the country need support from the Government to continue as costs soar.

Since March, Ukrainians fleeing the Russian invasion have been able to apply for a visa to stay in the UK under the Ukraine Sponsorship Scheme.

The scheme, also known as "Homes for Ukraine", allows individuals to host refugees for a minimum of six months.

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    As of August 2, 246 visas had been issued for refugees staying with hosts in Newcastle – 183 of which had arrived in the UK as of the day before.

    A new survey has suggested that hosts need more financial help from the Government amid the cost-of-living crisis, which has rapidly pushed up the price of food, energy and fuel.

    Across the UK, more than 17,000 sponsors responded to the questionnaire between July 7 and July 14, with more than 70% saying the crisis has impacted their ability to provide support.

    Among those who said they were only planning on hosting for six months, or were not sure, 40% said an increase in the £350 monthly payments they receive would encourage them to provide accommodation longer term.

    The Local Government Association, a membership body for local authorities, said better information was needed on what options are available after the six-month initial placement period.

    It added that the "thank you" payment should be increased to reduce the burden on sponsors.

    Separate data shows there were six refugee households owed a homelessness duty in Newcastle as of the end of June, including five families with dependent children.

    ​The data shows two of those households had subsequently avoided or been taken out of homelessness.​

    The Refugee Council, a charity which advocates for those fleeing conflict, said that support and advice was needed to stop arrangements from breaking down and refugees becoming homeless.

    The charity's CEO, Enver Solomon, added the cost-of-living crisis was an "additional burden" to those who have already faced significant hardship.

    The survey shows that many hosts supported their guests beyond providing accommodation – and have found the experience to be a positive one.

    More than nine in 10 hosts have helped set up services for those staying with them, and 58% say they have helped with sorting school and university places.

    Another 37% say they would consider hosting people fleeing from foreign conflicts again.

    Refugees Minister Richard Harrington said the survey results were "testament to the goodwill the British public has shown the people of Ukraine".

    He stressed that hosts will continue to receive monthly “thank you” payments for up to 12 months to help with the costs of opening up their home.

    “We initially asked sponsors to host for a minimum of six months and we are working closely with councils to ensure Ukrainians have a safe place to live if they decide to move on," he added.