UK’s Ukrainian refugee population at risk of homelessness

By Olivia Vicol and Emma McClelland - 27 September 2022

Drawing on real-life case studies and a survey of 191 Ukrainians, our latest report finds that without urgent government action, Ukrainian refugees face a real risk of homelessness this winter.

Katryna*, a Ukrainian woman, arrived in the UK with her eight-year-old son and their cat in May 2022, on the government's Homes for Ukraine Scheme. They moved in with their sponsor, but sadly they didn't get along, and they were told to pack up and leave. A local woman housed them briefly, but as her own daughter needed to move back in, they were asked to move out once again. Over the course of two weeks, Katryna's family and our caseworker desperately tried to find alternative accommodation. Our email and six calls to the local authority's helpline went unanswered for days. When we eventually got through, we were simply told there was no emergency accommodation. Almost as if the council forgot their statutory duty to relieve homelessness, or indeed their ability to refer homeless households to local authorities across the country, they simply left the family hanging, waiting to be evicted. It was only on the day of their eviction, and with a last-ditch intervention from the child's school to social services, that they were finally provided with accommodation. 

Katryna is one of countless Ukrainians who face the crippling prospect of homelessness in the UK this winter. Six months after Russia began its full scale invasion of Ukraine, and the UK responded with three visa schemes for Ukrainians, it is becoming apparent that refugees cannot rely upon the help of sponsors and families long term, and that they need urgent government support to build independent livelihoods in the UK. This is why we started this research project: to document the needs of the Ukrainian refugee community, and help policymakers implement the measures needed to address them.

What we found

Our survey with 191 Ukrainian refugees finds that, six months after the Ukraine schemes were rolled out, they face acute risks of homelessness and poverty: 

  • 1 in 10 reported being threatened with eviction, as hosts run out of patience and the rising cost of living devalues the government’s £350 / month "thank you payments".
  • Worryingly, those evicted are also struggling to find alternative accommodation, as letting agents require impossible down payments, and councils struggle to cope with homelessness applications.
  •  More than two thirds of Ukrainians who took part in our research had little or very little confidence in their ability to find accommodation in the private rental sector, and as many as 1 in 2 reported having no savings whatsoever. 

How the government can better protect refugees

While the survey is not representative of all Ukrainian refugees, we believe that the severity of needs identified warrants urgent government action. In the short term, we would urge the government to: 

  • Tackle the risk of refugee homelessness - with measures to prevent eviction, such as increasing and harmonising payments across the Ukraine schemes, but also with measures that mitigate homelessness, by consolidating local authorities' approach to homelessness relief, and by supporting refugees to access the private rental sector.
  • Support refugees' access to the private rental sector – by allowing them to passport the £350 "thank you payments" from sponsors to landlords, and by testing ways for local authorities to use the £10,500 payments granted by DHLUC to fund deposit and rent guarantee schemes. 
  • Facilitate refugees' entry to the labour market – with tailored employability support, access to English language classes, and means of transferring qualifications and experience acquired abroad.

You can read our full report, including all conclusions and recommendations, here.

Our multilingual team couldn’t do the work they do without the help of our generous supporters. If you can, please consider making a donation today: 

*Name changed to protect anonymity 

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