Ukraine: new research identifies pressures facing local authorities in the UK

By Adis Sehic and Olivia Vicol - 10 January 2023

Highlighting the experiences of local authorities through a series of interviews, our latest report identifies a multitude of pressures facing councils in dealing with the humanitarian crisis in Ukraine and the knock on effects this is having for Ukrainians in the UK.

While the UK's response to the humanitarian crisis in Ukraine has placed local authorities at the frontline, a substantive examination of what has gone right, what has gone wrong and what challenges authorities have faced has so far been lacking. Our latest report hopes to shed more light on how the UK's response has unfolded in practice on the ground, what this has meant for Ukrainians who have arrived in the UK seeking refuge and what lessons policymakers can take forward in future considerations about the UK's response to similar humanitarian crises.

Our findings

We conducted interviews with Ukraine response teams covering 12 local areas in London, who, as of December 2022, were themselves catering for around 5,300 Ukrainians under the Homes for Ukraine Scheme alone (roughly 36% of all HFU arrivals in the capital). Some of the headline findings raised included:

  • Difficulties in supporting those on the Ukraine Family Scheme without government funding - many Ukrainians on the scheme are now presenting to local councils as homeless, and they are struggling to cope with this demand;
  • Ukrainians at risk of exploitation - due to data validation issues and issues in communication between authorities, DLUHC and the Home Office, some visas on the Homes for Ukraine Scheme were approved without councils having completed appropriate checks on properties/sponsors. For example, in at least one case, a guest had to be moved because of a sponsor’s DBS record; and
  • Frontline staff are suffering - with teams suffering anxiety and emotional distress due to the overwhelming pressure they are under.

Rethinking the UK's response

To tackle the issues raised by authorities, we are calling for two central recommendations:

  • A new strategy for refugee integration - that can coordinate the response to different groups of arrivals, clarify local authorities’ roles and expectations and coordinate the involvement of different government departments; and 
  • Prioritise housing - give Ukrainian arrivals a real sense of the state of the UK’s housing from the outset, as well as resetting LHA rates and committing to more affordable housing stock as a national priority

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

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