Responding to War in Ukraine

Updates

Page first published 16 March 2022.

18 March 2022 – Homes for Ukraine section revised following guidance from UK Government.

22 March 2022 – Added more details on process for matching hosts and guests; started new section on resources for initial support of Ukrainian refugees.

23 March 2022 – Added Home Office contact details for offering work to people arriving from Ukraine, and link to Government guidance on transporting goods to the war region.

29 March 2022 – Minor updates on the Homes for Ukraine scheme.

1 April 2022 – Fully revised text incorporating guidance from Reset, NACCOM, the UK Government and updates from CSAN.

22 April 2022 – Updates to reflect extended Government guidance.

25 May 2022 – Fully revised text.

24 June 2022 – Minor amends to reflect updates in Government guidance.

Contents

Foreword

About this resource

Pray

Donations

Understand the situation

Act

Supporting Ukrainians in the UK before the war

Ukraine Family Visa Scheme

Homes for Ukraine Scheme

Initial support for Ukrainian refugees arriving in England and Wales

Foreword

We have been following the situation in Ukraine with dismay and with our prayers. The brutal conflict has triggered the largest war-related migration of people since the Balkan War of the 1990s. CSAN and CAFOD have made a joint statement (pdf, 0.2mb) about our roles in this situation, and receive regular updates on emerging needs from national Caritas agencies in the war region.

The Catholic community’s response to refugees has expressed a heartfelt compassion and practical support, for example in recent years through the Community Sponsorship Scheme for Syrian refugees, and for those displaced from Afghanistan. Pope Francis summarises the right response ‘to the arrival of migrating persons in four words: welcome, protect, promote and integrate’, and goes on to set out a list of ‘indispensable steps’ (Fratelli tutti, 129-130). CSAN and other Catholic charities have received many offers of support to help Ukrainian refugees, and we hope this resource will help to inform further practical responses.

Our view of the current situation on refugee-to-host matching and support

CSAN has sustained contact with the UK Government, other Caritas agencies in Europe, and other faith groups, on improving the speed, safety and effectiveness of matching processes between refugees and hosts in this country. By May 2022, Caritas organisations had supported in person around 1.5 million people displaced from home by the war, internally within Ukraine and in nearby countries. Depaul International, religious orders and other Catholic charities are active on the ground too. Feedback from colleagues in national Caritas organisations in the war region indicates that most refugees want to remain close to Ukraine, and have little interest in moving as far as the UK, though as at early June 2022 there are some emerging indications that a significant number of refugees may look to move to Southern Europe. The UK’s international reputation as a ‘hostile environment’ in terms of public policy on immigration has also been reported to have had an impact on the willingness of charities overseas to encourage refugees to come to the UK, and among the general public in Europe. Finally, the current matching services recognised by Government are over-stretched to cope with the number of UK households willing to host. CSAN remains keen to support an increase in matching provision through the Caritas network in England and Wales, and international Catholic channels. This is dependent on new funding and CSAN is actively exploring options.

We understand around 230,000 UK households have registered to host one or more refugees in the Homes for Ukraine scheme. As at 21 June 2022, the Government had issued nearly 86,000 visas for the scheme in England and Wales, and an estimated 50,000 people had arrived through this route.

In addition, the need to plan and resource a humanitarian response to poverty in England and Wales is acute: how we resource both the needs of incoming refugees and existing residents already in poverty. 14.5 million people in the UK are in poverty. The ‘cost-of-living crisis’ is forecast to push an additional 4 million UK households into poverty in 2022.

About this resource

  • CSAN has received many enquiries from members of the public and Catholic organisations asking how they can help people caught up in the war in Ukraine. This resource is addressed mainly to the Catholic community in England and Wales, offering some answers on how to help. Please note that we do not offer advice on collection or transport of goods – see the section on donations below.
  • Responses from the UK Government and civil society organisations continue to develop. CSAN will add to and amend this page as new details emerge, with a summary of the updates at the top of the page.
  • We are very grateful to the Church of England’s Mission and Public Affairs Division for consent to re-use some of their materials with modifications in the first edition of this resource.

Pray

The first thing we can do is pray.

Father, you entrusted to Saint Joseph what you held most precious: the child Jesus and his Mother, in order to protect them from the dangers and threats of the wicked. Grant that we may experience his protection and help. May he, who shared in the sufferings of those who flee from the hatred of the powerful, console and protect all our brothers and sisters driven by war, poverty and necessity to leave their homes and their lands to set out as refugees for safer places. Help them, through the intercession of Saint Joseph, to find the strength to persevere, give them comfort in sorrows and courage amid their trials. Grant to those who welcome them some of the tender love of this just and wise father, who loved Jesus as a true son and sustained Mary at every step of the way. May he, who earned his bread by the work of his hands, watch over those who have seen everything in life taken away and obtain for them the dignity of a job and the serenity of a home. We ask this through Jesus Christ, your Son, whom Saint Joseph saved by fleeing to Egypt, and trusting in the intercession of the Virgin Mary, whom he loved as a faithful husband in accordance with your will. Amen.

Pope Francis’s prayer for the World Day of Migrants and Refugees, 2020

Donations

Please note we do not offer advice on donating or transporting goods. The UK Government has published guidance on this.

In the war region, our Caritas national sister agencies are helping people directly. CAFOD, as a member of the Disasters Emergency Committee in the UK, is part of their joint appeal, from which those Caritas sister agencies will benefit. They have specifically asked for financial assistance rather than donations of goods.

CAFOD is leading and coordinating that appeal in England and Wales on behalf of our sister national Caritas agencies working in, and on the borders of Ukraine. CAFOD can accept, process and quickly transfer donations to our partners who can then focus on delivering the much-needed assistance. Through CAFOD, the Catholic community of England and Wales can give practical assistance in and around Ukraine. Caritas sister organisations in Ukraine (Caritas Spes and Caritas Ukraine) and in neighbouring countries are already helping people who are affected.

To support CAFOD’s appeal for relief work in the war region, please go to cafod.org.uk/ukrainecrisis.

To support CSAN’s work extending the Catholic Church’s responses to the cost of living crisis and for refugees in England and Wales, please go to csan.org.uk/donate.

Other organisations including Catholic charities are also making appeals for their work.

Understand the humanitarian situation

The United Nations estimates there are eight million internally displaced persons in Ukraine and six and a half million refugees have fled to other countries (June 2022). Many of these refugees wish to remain as close as possible to Ukraine or to join with family and friends in states with which they have a connection.

Many thousands of refugees are looking to come to the UK, either due to family or personal ties, because they can speak English (which is a widely spoken second language in Ukraine), or because they believe it represents a safe and secure refuge. The level of support required may differ from other recent refugee movements to the UK. For example, while many of those who were forced to flee Afghanistan or Syria have little prospect of ever being able to return to the land of their birth and so are seeking a permanent home in the UK, many Ukrainians leaving the current conflict are likely to hope to return home once peace is restored. The vast majority of refugees who have left Ukraine are women and children, which poses safeguarding concerns. In addition to guidance on safeguarding in the Catholic Church in England and Wales, coordinated through the Catholic Safeguarding Standards Agency, we have signposted resources for identifying victims of human trafficking and modern slavery on our website.

Act

Supporting Ukrainians in the UK before the war

According to the UK Government, ‘Preliminary figures from the 2021 Census in England and Wales identify approximately 37,530 people who were born in Ukraine and were “usual residents” in England and Wales in March 2021.’ Other estimates put the number somewhere between 20 and 50,000 Ukrainian nationals who were in the UK before the war started. Part of the reason for the variance is that many of these Ukrainians are in the UK on temporary visas, particularly on seasonal worker visas in the agricultural sector, and as students.

This is a difficult and worrying time for Ukrainians living in England and Wales. We encourage churches and individuals to provide pastoral help where it is needed. If you are concerned that a Ukrainian is being exploited, or is in danger of being exploited, you may wish to report this. You can report it to the Modern Slavery Helpline on 08000 121 700. If someone is in immediate danger, call 999. More information about human trafficking and modern slavery is signposted on our website.

Ukraine Extension Scheme

The UK Government has made changes to the visa system to help those who are already here and lessen uncertainties about what might happen to them once their visa expires. If you know or work with Ukrainians in this situation, particularly those on skilled or seasonal worker visas, or student visas, you can direct them to the latest government guidance. Most Ukrainians who were in the UK before the outbreak of war are eligible for a free visa extension until at least 31 December 2022, or up to three years under the Ukraine Extension Scheme which includes the rights to work, study and to access public funds. However, this is subject to meeting terms and conditions attached to the visa. Do encourage people to apply early for visa extensions, as becoming an ‘overstayer’ (staying beyond the terms of the visa without permission) can affect their rights and future ability to visit the UK.

Ukraine Family Scheme

The Ukraine Family Scheme is open for Ukrainians who had been living in Ukraine on or immediately before 1 January 2022, and who have family legally settled in the UK. The family member in the UK must be a British national, legally settled in the UK, an EU national with pre-settled status in the UK, or a refugee or someone with humanitarian leave. It is not available to, for example, family members of those here on a seasonal worker or student visa.

The definition of family member for this visa has been expanded from other visa schemes to include:

  • Parents
  • Adult children
  • Siblings
  • Grandparents
  • Cousins
  • Other immediate family who would not usually be eligible

It is not available to, for example, family members of those here on a seasonal worker or student visa.

The scheme is not capped (i.e. there is no upper limit to how many can come if they are eligible).

See the Government’s detailed guidance: how to apply and the eligibility rules.

Homes for Ukraine – Humanitarian Sponsorship Scheme

The UK Government’s “Homes for Ukraine” scheme opened on 18 March 2022. This allows UK households – individuals and families – to commit to sponsoring a Ukrainian household in their home. The members of this household must be named in the application.

Ukrainians who arrive on this scheme have leave to remain for up to three years and full access to the labour market, the NHS and to some state benefits.

Volunteer hosts (sponsors) who sign up must be aged 18 or over, and will have to commit to accommodating for at least six months and will not be able to charge for rent, but will be able to receive an optional ‘thank you’ tax-free payment of £350 a month from the sponsor’s local authority. This figure is the same regardless of the number of refugees hosted. People in receipt of state benefits may apply to be a host. The Government has published additional guidance for potential sponsors.

Hosting is based on the principle of hospitality: extending warmth and welcome to a guest. Hosting should be like inviting any other guest to stay at your house or in your community. In hosting a refugee guest, you’re committing to offering a safe and secure place to stay, facilities to wash, and somewhere to cook and eat.

Potential hosts should be fully aware of what they are being asked to do, and whether this is something that they are able to commit to. You will need to consider the impact that offering a room in your home could have on your life and what it may take to support someone. We recommend that any potential host researches the support that people fleeing conflict may need and what is available in their area, or build connections locally to offer support prior to sponsoring, for example with a local refugee action group and/or a charity that works with refugees and asylum seekers. There are anecdotal reports of a relatively high rate of breakdown in arrangements between host households and refugees who have no prior connection and ‘found’ each other online outside the Government’s recognised matching services.

Most refugees want to be in towns and cities with good access to employment opportunities and transport links.

Some of the people fleeing from Ukraine will have suffered recent intense trauma. They have fled their homes, livelihoods and likely left family members behind in a situation of extreme uncertainty and danger. You should be prepared for the possibility of the refugee(s) you are hosting experiencing psychological trauma which may require medical attention.

There may also be language and cultural barriers – some of which may be immediately obvious, others may take time to learn and get to know. English language support will likely vary across England and Wales.

Sponsoring hosts in the Homes for Ukraine scheme are not expected to provide specialist support to guests. Sponsors are required to maintain suitable accommodation for a minimum of 6 months, signpost the guest to public services, and assist them with tasks such as registering with a local GP surgery. Sponsors with a mortgage should check with the lender for further guidance. Sponsors should notify their insurers they will be hosting guests from Ukraine, prior to their arrival – see guidance from Association of British Insurers. For more on the role of sponsors, see the UK Government guidance.

The main steps towards hosting are as follows:

1. Sponsor and guest find each other and agree to a match. There is no single route to matching, and both the sponsor and guest could use a number of channels to find a match. They could for example already have a relationship in place with a friend in the UK/Ukraine, they could be friends of friends, or could find a sponsor or guest through a charity or other channel. The Reset charity, which already works with the Home Office on community sponsorship of refugees, has set up a matching service to connect refugees and hosts for Homes for Ukraine. You can register to host and be matched with a Ukrainian refugee on Reset’s website.

2. Either the guest or sponsor apply for a visa using both parties’ details – see the UK Government website.

3. After the application is submitted, security checks are undertaken. Enhanced checks of all adult members of the host household will be made by the local authority with the Disclosure and Barring Service. The Ukrainians will also need to pass security checks. Local authorities will conduct checks on the standard of accommodation being offered, for example on heating, water, access to bathroom and kitchen facilities, and smoke detection.

4. Once both sponsor and guest have passed the checks, the Home Office will issue the guest with a decision and more details on travel.

5. The guest can then travel to the UK. Sponsors should stay in regular contact with their guest prior to their arrival to help organise and coordinate their arrival in the UK, meet them on arrival, and facilitate transfer to their accommodation.

6. Specific councils will provide welcome arrangements for guests, with additional immediate support provided to guests where it is required. Guests will be entitled to an ‘interim payment’ of £200 from the local authority where the sponsor’s accommodation is located, which the guest does not need to repay. Councils can also top-up this payment. The UK Government has published more information about support for refugees to travel from outside and within the UK, and the duties of local authorities to support Ukrainian refugees in their area.

The UK Government has published answers to frequently asked questions about the scheme:

Reset has published a full guide to the scheme (pdf).

Further resources on supporting and hosting refugees, and contacts, are signposted on our website.

The speed at which people will be brought to the UK is dependent on a number of different variables: bureaucracy and the visa application process (unlike many other European countries, the UK has not waived visas), the number of people who express a desire to come to the UK, refugees’ ability to travel from where they currently are and the suitability of the placement you have to offer. All these factors may mean that your offer to host someone is not taken up immediately.

This can be difficult to understand when you are seeing people in urgent need of protection on the news each night. However, we do also know that the need for support is not going to go away overnight. Please be patient as we are sure that your hospitality and generosity can definitely be of help in some shape or form.

Refugees will be able to enter private rented housing after the initial hosting period ends. They will also be able to apply for housing support alongside Universal Credit where eligible.

The Government is actively reviewing options to extend the scheme to larger groups and to sponsorship provided by companies, community groups and churches.

The establishment of long-term routes to permanent resettlement will also be vital to the overall success of ‘Homes for Ukraine’. Further consideration needs to be given to housing and integration support beyond short-term hosting placements, to enable people to rebuild their lives here – or indeed claim asylum – if they wish.  

Initial support for Ukrainian refugees arriving in England and Wales

Please see guidance for first responses to refugees arriving in England and Wales.

The Government has produced guidance on moving to the UK from Ukraine.

As part of the UK’s offer to those Ukrainians coming to the UK, the Government has committed to providing full access to a range of public services, including doctors, schools and full local authority support. They will also be offered COVID-19 vaccines and medical screenings. A Ukrainian in the UK lawfully can access the NHS on a similar basis as other UK residents, if he/she –

  • uses an alternative temporary visa route outside of the family or sponsorship routes;
  • is on a family or sponsored route to England;
  • chooses to extend their visit or seasonal worker visa temporarily, without going through the immigration health surcharge system, or
  • is in the process of switching visas.

This covers any NHS treatment that started on or after 24 February 2022. Guidance in Ukrainian on accessing NHS services, including COVID vaccinations, is available from Doctors of the World.

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has made emergency regulations to ensure people fleeing the Ukraine war can claim benefits, including Universal Credit and housing benefit, immediately in the UK. This is instead of needing to pass the usual habitual residence test and wait for up to three months to receive income-related benefits. DWP have said new arrivals will be eligible for Personal Independence Payment, Child Disability Living Allowance, Carers Allowance and Attendance Allowance. The Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC), has written to councils to confirm that those arriving under the Ukraine Family Scheme and Homes for Ukraine Scheme are eligible for social housing and homelessness assistance. 

The Home Office is welcoming offers from employers of work for people arriving from Ukraine.

We will update this page regularly as more details emerge.

Picture: Caritas Poland volunteers and staff support people arriving from Ukraine. Copyright Philipp Spalek / Caritas.