Work continues on improving support for Ukrainian and Afghan refugees.
Councils continue to support the steadily increasing number of new arrivals from Ukraine, as the Russian invasion devastates their country.
The LGA and councils are in regular contact with the Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, the Minister for Refugees, and government officials, especially regarding the Homes for Ukraine scheme.
We continue to argue that the Ukraine Family Scheme for visas should be put on a similar basis to Homes for Ukraine, and for clear communications around re-matching new arrivals whose sponsorship arrangements have fallen through.
We also want more clarity regarding safeguarding risks and particularly around disclosure and barring (DBS) checks, and we have highlighted the need for special funding for very high-cost circumstances, and are pressing for longer-term solutions beyond six months.
In response, the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC) continues to update its guidance, with new advice on recognised providers and for matching organisations, and for businesses considering making offers of employment to people coming to the UK from Ukraine.
In May, DLUHC set out plans to introduce a mechanism for councils to rematch Homes for Ukraine guests with new sponsors, in certain circumstances.
It has also updated the process for raising queries in relation to Homes for Ukraine, including support with live cases, particularly where there are safeguarding concerns.
Meanwhile, the Home Office has published new immigration information about the next steps Ukrainians need to take after arriving in the UK.
This includes information about what Ukrainians need to do to confirm their immigration status, and how to demonstrate their status to access work, and the benefits and services to which they are entitled.
In addition to supporting new arrivals from Ukraine, councils have ongoing responsibilities in respect of Afghan and other refugees and asylum-seekers.
The Home Office and DLUHC have jointly written to council chief executives giving details of a process for enhanced matching and resettlement of Afghan families in bridging accommodation (mainly hotels).
The letter, and an accompanying Q&A, set out the detail of the enhanced matching, confirmed the process for managing refusals of offers of accommodation, and the funding arrangements for councils.
We know councils are committed to moving families on from hotels as quickly as possible. We will continue to work through the potential impacts of the refusals policy with councils and government, pressing for earlier involvement from councils in the matching process so families can make informed choices around the options available to them.
Finally, the Home Office is consulting informally on its proposed move to a ‘full dispersal’ model, under which all regions will be expected to take a share of asylum seekers needing housing.
Migration Minister Kevin Foster met the LGA’s Asylum, Refugee and Migration Task Group in May, at which members welcomed the move to a more equitable and place-based and funded system.
Members also flagged the need for ongoing engagement with political leadership, longer-term funding, effective oversight of procurement and numbers based on better data, and the need to consider pressures caused by the wider asylum, resettlement, housing and social cohesion context.
The LGA continues to engage with government on all these issues on your behalf. You can find out more at www.local.gov.uk/ukraine, and please raise any issues or views with your LGA principal adviser (www.local.gov.uk/our-support/lga-principal-advisers).