Support for Ukrainian refugees and sponsor families in B&NES


Bath & North East Somerset has welcomed its first refugees under the Government’s Homes for Ukraine (H4U) scheme with more families escaping the war due to arrive in the coming weeks.


So far under the Homes for Ukraine five adults and two children have made the 1,700 mile journey from Ukraine to Bath. They are now settling into safe, secure accommodation provided by kind-hearted residents and are being supported by Bath & North East Somerset Council and other local partners. A further four adults and seven children are anticipated to arrive by the end of the Easter weekend.


So far, the applications of residents from 67 households across Bath & North East Somerset are in the final stages of processing under the Homes for Ukraine scheme. Over the coming weeks 89 more adults and an additional 50 children are expected to be granted visas and move to the district.


Tamara Sturtz-Filby from Bath (pictured with Councillor Dine Romero) is waiting to welcome a 34-year-old mother forced to flee the fighting in Ukraine’s second city of Kharkiv with her two-year-old son, leaving behind her husband. They are currently in temporary accommodation in Hungary and are desperate for the security Tamara Sturtz-Filby has offered them but have spent the past three weeks waiting for their visas to be processed.


Tamara said: “The support we’ve had from the council has been amazing, within half an hour of registering to become a sponsor they’d emailed to arrange DBS checks and within days we had everything in place. We’re ready to welcome our guests and provide them with a safe home so it’s hugely frustrating that we are still waiting for their visa applications to be processed.”


Over the past three weeks council officers have inspected 54 properties, carried out welfare and suitability checks and made plans to support families post arrival.


Councillor Dine Romero, cabinet member for Children, Young People, Communities and Culture said: “It’s heart-breaking to see families torn apart by the conflict and fleeing their country with few possessions and little means of support, but the compassion shown by people across Bath & North East Somerset in offering up space in their homes to those escaping the horrors of the war has been overwhelming.


“The council’s role is to ensure the Homes for Ukraine scheme is safe, runs as smoothly as possible and benefits all those involved. We appreciate the frustrations of sponsors over how long the Home Office is taking to process visa applications, but we are ready to welcome and support those fleeing the conflict. We’ve worked quickly and efficiently to inspect homes, carry out DBS checks and put in place payment mechanisms for sponsors.


“We’re offering advice on how to apply for school places, register with a GP and access council services. We’re also carrying out post arrival health and wellbeing checks and signposting sponsors and refugees to education and training providers and other support services.


“As well as the Homes For Ukraine arrivals, we know that there are also a number of people arriving in B&NES under the Family Visa Scheme - and we are offering support to people to support if they need it


“It’s important we give our guests, many of whom have experienced unimaginable trauma, time and space to adjust to their new lives. We aim to help make the transition as smooth as possible and I’d like to thank everyone involved for playing their part in responding to this humanitarian crisis.”


Under the Homes for Ukraine Scheme, the council has responsibility for:


Accommodation checks


Six officers from the council’s housing team have been involved in carrying out accommodation checks to ensure homes meet health and safety requirements and are in a suitable condition.

Ace Energy, based in Bath, are kindly offering free gas safety certificates to sponsors whose homes are in the BA1 or BA2 area. You can find more information on the Ace Energy Homes for Ukraine Scheme website.


The council is keen to hear from other businesses within Bath and North East Somerset who can also offer help. Please contact us at H4U@bathnes.gov.uk


DBS checks


All adults aged over sixteen living in the same household or supporting refugees must have a background DBS check. To date the council has carried out 99 DBS checks in relation to the Homes for Ukraine scheme.


Schooling


The council is working closely with schools and host families to ensure that school places are available for Ukrainian children. Children will be admitted to their nearest school with an available place. The majority of schools in B&NES manage their own admissions and the usual in-year admissions procedures apply.


If it is not possible to find a school with a place the council may consider using admission arrangements within DFE guidance that would enable schools to agree to admit over their capacity.


Welfare support


Refugee welfare checks are made upon arrival. Once officers have seen proof of an individual’s visa, they issue a one-off £200 payment per person. This is designed to help Ukrainian refugees establish themselves by covering the cost of immediate basic provisions, bus fares etc. Families are also signposted to health services, schools, mental health and wellbeing support, money and benefits advice, organisations such as Bath Welcomes Refugees and the council’s website.

Sponsor payments


The council is also responsible for processing the £350 monthly thank you payments to sponsors. Payment is made one month in arrears once accommodation checks have been completed.


Interpreting & Translation services


The council has access to a professional interpreting provider and is also is working with Bath Welcomes Refugees who have a list of local volunteers with language skills we can also draw upon where needed.


Households in B&NES who have volunteered to sponsor Ukrainian refugees can find information and support details on the council’s website.


The government has also produced a guide for newly arrived Ukrainians. The guidance contains useful information, for example about opening bank accounts and claiming benefits. It is also available in Ukrainian and Russian.


Arrivals under the Family Visa Scheme


As well as the Homes for Ukraine scheme, there have been a number of arrivals in our area of people who have been granted visas under the Family Visa Scheme because they have relatives here. We have urged the government to provide consistency between the Family Visa Scheme and the Homes For Ukraine Scheme – and provide the same support to people arriving under both schemes.


If anyone needs help in relation to housing, claiming benefits, or access to services they can visit our website https://beta.bathnes.gov.uk/ukraine-family-visa-scheme They can also contact the Community Wellbeing Hub, who are able to access an interpreter if needed. The Community Wellbeing Hub is a partnership between Bath & North East Somerset Council, HCRG Care Group and its third sector partners. They can be contacted Monday to Friday between the hours of 9am and 5pm by telephoning 0300 247 0050 or by email: CWHBanes@hcrgcaregroup.com


For help with living expenses on arrival, or for financial help until benefits are paid, our Welfare Support provides people with short-term, emergency help with living costs. 01225 477277, email: welfare_support@bathnes.gov.uk


To help Ukraine during the current crisis, you can donate directly to the Disasters Emergency Committee, British Red Cross or UNICEF. The organisations’ websites are regularly updated with news on how they are supporting Ukrainian refugees.

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