The latest data from the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities and Home Office shows that 435 vias have been issued for South Cambridgeshire so far, as part of the Homes for Ukraine scheme. This is the highest number for any District Council area, and the seventh highest figure for any area in England. Only bigger Unitary Authority areas including Buckinghamshire, Wiltshire, Cornwall and Dorset, and some London boroughs, have larger numbers.
At the start of the outbreak of the conflict in Ukraine and beginning of the Homes for Ukraine scheme, South Cambridgeshire District Council mobilised at short notice to arrange payments for guests and hosts, DBS checks and in-person visits to confirm properties are suitable, and guests are settling in well. These processes are ongoing as guests continue to arrive.
The Council also continues to keep hosts and guests in South Cambridgeshire connected via regular bulletin updates and has established online communities to bring together both hosts and guests. A webinar for guests, hosts and community groups is being held, and there are plans for in-person meet-ups soon.
Additionally, an online welcome pack for new arrivals from Ukraine has been created and continues to be updated as further useful information becomes available.
The District Council’s Business Support and Development team has also stepped-in to help. They have been working with colleagues at Jobcentre Plus to co-ordinate job vacancies with Ukrainian job seekers and promoting advice from industry bodies including the Chambers of Commerce and FSB. They are promoting these through their newsletter, social media accounts and High Street Support Officers.
South Cambridgeshire District Council’s Lead Cabinet Member for Community Resilience, Health and Wellbeing, Cllr Bill Handley, said: “It has been truly incredible to watch our communities step forward and welcome those fleeing the war in Ukraine with open arms. The COVID-19 pandemic has shown us just how much South Cambridgeshire residents care about the safety and security of others, and this is evident once again in the support and homes being offered to arrivals from Ukraine. As you’d expect, our community groups and parish councils have also been exceptionally eager to play their part in this support wherever possible too. I am humbled and grateful.”
The Leader of South Cambridgeshire District Council, Cllr Bridget Smith, added: “The number of sponsors who have stepped forward to offer a house or rooms to people fleeing the most awful circumstances is testament to the unique community spirit that we have in South Cambridgeshire. At the Council, we have had to move quickly to ensure we can keep up with demand, and I am exceptionally proud of our teams who have put effective support systems in place alongside their usual duties. We have been faced with a big challenge because of the number of visas that have been issued for us in the district, and the number of people who want to do their bit to help. As a result, I’m pleased that we have got more efficient at dealing with our supportive role as each week has passed. A personal thank you from me to all those who have come forward to offer assistance.”
Ukrainians who are fleeing Ukraine but don’t have a family connection in the UK can be sponsored via the Homes for Ukraine scheme. To be confirmed as a sponsor you must be based in the UK; with at least six months permission to be in the UK. You can be of any nationality. The expectation from Government is that the sponsor would be able to provide accommodation, free of charge, to the specific named Ukrainian individual/family for at least six months. Sponsors can apply through the Homes for Ukraine scheme here.