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Homes for Ukraine – what we are learning: Refugees

21 April 2022

Over the coming days our CEO, Kate, will be sharing our learning to date through our website and meetings with allies. We have learned a lot, far too much for one article, so we want to start with what Ukrainian refugees need from the Homes for Ukraine programme.

Like many of you, when the invasion of Ukraine began my first thoughts turned to those fleeing the war. Since 2018 Reset has been leading the way on community sponsorship so when the government announced that it would support people to open their homes – and hearts – to Ukrainian refugees, we wanted to help. We knew it wouldn’t be easy, but we could not stand by and do nothing. Over the last few weeks, we’ve been piloting a matching service to enable potential UK Sponsors to ‘meet’ a Ukrainian refugee with the view to sponsoring them.

We have been truly humbled by the number of potential sponsors who have registered with us and by the refugees who have placed their trust in us to help them find a temporary home here in the UK. We have made matches and visas are being processed, but we know that our approach to ‘hand matching’ takes too much time so we have already adjusted our process to speed up matching while keeping an eye on all important safeguards.

Over the coming days we will be sharing our learning to date through this blog and meetings with allies. And we have learned a lot, far too much for one post, so we want to start with what Ukrainian refugees need from the system.

Here’s what we’ve learned so far

As with the majority of refugees, Ukrainians want to stay as close as possible to home; having been forced to leave their loved ones, homes and possessions behind there is nothing they want more than to return to their country. We also know that people are returning to Ukraine.

For those who want to move further afield, most refugees are pursuing a variety of options including different countries and multiple matching schemes; while not people’s preference, social media ‘matching’ is popular because it is fast. From a UK perspective, there is a very low awareness of the Homes for Ukraine scheme and considerable confusion about what is being offered, and crucially what they need to do in exchange for a visa / home for six months.

The refugees we’ve spoken to have valued the relational approach to matching; it gives us the opportunity to dispel any myths and that we have put them in the driving seat – the refugee gets to say whether the proposed sponsor works for them – they have also appreciated the focus on safeguarding.

What’s important to refugees coming to the UK?

Many of the refugees we have spoken to want the kind of things any of us would want, they want to know about job prospects, how they can find a school place for their kids and what the area they are going to move to is like. There is a very clear preference for city/urban locations with good transport links and people we’ve spoken to are also keen on areas where there are other Ukrainians already living there.

What happens when things go wrong?

Those of us who know refugees, know that they are pragmatists and are concerned about what happens if things don’t work out with their sponsor, where would they live? How do they find a new home?  Refugees are very aware of the visa process, which is confusing and time consuming, and want to know what they do if their sponsor pulls out after a visa has been issued.

We’re capturing all this feedback and using it to build our ‘phase two’ response; however, the biggest learning from the pilot phase isn’t learning at all, it’s a reminder of the importance of agency. And that when you’ve had so much taken away from you, being able to have some agency around where you live is so important to those fleeing conflict.

I know this post will lead to more questions, so please do drop us a line with what information you would like from us.

Look out for my next post which will cover our learning from a sponsor side.

Kate Brown, Chief Executive Officer