Putting on the pressure

The LGA has been engaging with MPs to improve support for Ukrainian arrivals.

The scenes from Ukraine over the past two months have been heart-breaking. 

Since the Russian invasion, the LGA and councils have been working closely with the Government to ensure support for new arrivals from Ukraine is put in place quickly and at scale, and families are kept safe. 

As part of our national engagement, the LGA’s Chairman Cllr James Jamieson, Chief Executive Mark Lloyd and Principal Policy Adviser Sonika Sidhu, gave evidence to the Levelling Up, Housing and Communities Committee as part of its one-day inquiry on support for Ukraininan refugees.

The session was an opportunity to highlight the amount of work already going on in local government to support new arrivals. 

Our witnesses detailed councils’ key priorities on a range of issues including: the quality and breadth of data councils are receiving on sponsors and new arrivals; the need for further guidance on accommodation and safeguarding checks; what happens in the event of sponsorship breakdown; and any additional funding which may be needed. 

Cllr Jamieson also used the LGA’s latest survey data to highlight the number of arrivals presenting as homeless.

The Minister for Refugees, Lord Harrington, appeared before the committee after the LGA, and was questioned on the issues highlighted in the LGA session. 

Later that same day, a Liaison Committee session took place with the Prime Minster, Boris Johnson. This influential committee comprises of all of the Commons’ select committee chairs, and questions senior figures on the significant issues of the day. 

Chairing the session, Clive Betts MP, an LGA Vice-President and Chair of the Levelling Up Committee, questioned Mr Johnson on the schemes for new arrivals. 

The Prime Minister said he would look at local authority funding to support those on the family scheme and stated there was no reason why councils should not have access to more data.

This LGA session received widespread media coverage, including on BBC News, and was raised by Shadow Local Government Secretary Mike Amesbury MP in an urgent question. 

Dame Diana Johnson MP, an LGA Vice-President and Chair of the Home Affairs Committee, also used the data to ask the Levelling Up, Housing and Communities Secretary what steps his department is taking to ensure that local authorities are aware of all the residents in their local area who have registered an interest in sponsoring Ukrainian arrivals.

Demonstrating the cross-party support for our calls, the survey data was used in a Lords’ debate on Ukrainian refugees by Baroness Finlay of Llandaff (Crossbencher) and Lord Coaker (Lab). 

Since the session, the Government has updated its guidance for councils on Homes for Ukraine and given councils access to data specific to their area. 

The guidance confirms that councils have local discretion on accommodation checks, and that payments for new arrivals (£10,500 per person), and their sponsors (£350 monthly ‘thank you’ payments) will be provided to county councils. 

In two-tier areas, councils will need to agree to distribute funding locally in relation to which council will provide the services that new arrivals will need. This expectation will be reflected in the grant conditions placed on funding for the Homes for Ukraine scheme, to be set out in due course.

The LGA is continuing to work with the Government so councils can do their utmost to protect and support new arrivals as they start their new lives in the UK.

Author

For more on the LGA’s parliamentary work, please visit www.local.gov.uk/parliament. The Government’s latest guidance for councils on Homes for Ukraine is available at www.gov.uk/guidance/homes-for-ukraine-guidance-for-councils

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