JANE Hutt, Minister for Social Justice:
I am today publishing a written statement about the latest support for people arriving from Ukraine in Wales to ensure Members are kept up to date.
On 10 June, we paused new applications to our super-sponsor route, which is part of the Homes for Ukraine scheme. We committed to review that decision at the end of June.
We are delighted to have been able to support many more people under the super-sponsor route than we initially expected – we had initially committed to enabling 1,000 people to come to Wales; to date, more than 4,000 visas have been issued via the super-sponsor route and we have a duty to ensure each person receives good quality accommodation and support as they arrive in Wales so they can integrate with local communities during their time here. Applications already made continue to be processed and, once visas are confirmed, anyone who has received one is able to come to Wales.
We are working very hard with local government colleagues to accommodate and support people from Ukraine as they arrive in Wales. Together we are setting up and opening new welcome centres and providing support at other accommodation being used to accommodate the many people arriving from Ukraine every week. We have now opened a sixth welcome centre and we are accommodating people in hotels and other types of accommodation across Wales; additional welcome centres will be opening during July.
The pause of new super-sponsor applications will remain in place while we continue to work with partners to help people from Ukraine transition from the welcome centres into longer-term accommodation in communities across Wales. We are working closely with local government colleagues, the NHS and the third sector to ensure people arriving via the super-sponsor route get all the support they need to settle into Wales and into appropriate move-on accommodation.
We are ensuring that no one will move into alternative accommodation, which we have arranged until all safeguarding checks have been completed. Supporting this process of accommodation identification, checks and move on is a major focus of our activity and will remain so in the coming weeks.
Ensuring there is proper flow of people from our welcome centres to onward accommodation is crucial to ensure we can maximise the support we can offer. To enable this, we have established national contracts to support local government in undertaking DBS checks and property inspections. We have shared the details of Welsh households who have expressed an interest in hosting people from Ukraine and local authorities have been working their way through these offers as quickly as possible to identify suitable accommodation places.
When war broke out in Ukraine, we saw an overwhelming outpouring of support for people from Ukraine, with thousands of people coming forward to register their support to provide a home. We now need to ask the Welsh public and landlords to come forward to offer to host people from Ukraine. We will shortly be asking households and landlords to register their interest via our website.
We want to ensure everyone participating in the Homes for Ukraine scheme as hosts or sponsors properly understand what they are signing up to and hosts have access to the support they need. We are funding Housing Justice Cymru to ensure information sessions, training sessions and host-peer support sessions will be arranged for those supporting this scheme in Wales. The service will be available imminently.
One of the main challenges for hosts and people from Ukraine is access to expert advice and support. We have therefore funded the extension of our existing Wales Sanctuary Service – a consortium led by Welsh Refugee Council – to ensure they are adequately resourced to support Ukrainians arriving across Wales. The service will provide casework advice and advocacy support to any Ukrainian in need of support. It will also provide a peer support group to Ukrainians. We hope the extension of this service will be welcome to those who are struggling to find the quick advice they need.
I have previously raised the inconsistency of UK Government in providing funding for the Homes for Ukraine scheme but not providing funding to households involved in the Ukraine Family Scheme. I have also highlighted that, unlike previous schemes, there is no UK Government funding for health services or for ESOL provision. The Welsh Government continues to provide all the funding to accommodate people from Ukraine as they arrive in Wales and before they move into next stage accommodation. We have also decided to ensure any host who formally takes in a Ukraine Family Scheme family via the local authority will receive the £350 per month thank you payment where all necessary checks are passed. This will be funded by Welsh Government.
While we cannot hope to plug all the gaps, we have partnered with British Red Cross to fund the extension of its successful refugee family reunion integration service to include reunited Ukrainian families. The service will provide casework support and cultural orientation for families we can identify who have arrived under this route.
We know many communities; third sector groups and other organisations have convened to provide practical help and support in communities. We know Ukrainian people arriving in Wales are themselves forming connections with each other and with communities in Wales and supporting each other.
Welsh higher education and further education institutions and local authorities have been working hard to provide access to ESOL, including during the summer holidays. We have provided more than £7m to support a Summer of Fun for all children and young people aged 0 to 25 this year, working with local authorities and national partners. These activities, which are free for all taking part, are open to children and families from Ukraine and all children and families seeking sanctuary. A wide range of activities are planned across Wales including open access play provision, a variety of sports activities for all ages, arts and crafts activities, dance, music, reading groups and more. Information about these activities is available on local authority websites.
We have been overwhelmed by the generosity of people in Wales and the offers of support for people in Ukraine. People continue to ask how they can support people from Ukraine. The most practical way to support people is financially, so they are able to make decisions for themselves. This gives people dignity. If people are able to donate money, we are encouraging the public and businesses to donate to the Community Foundation Wales’ Nation of Sanctuary – Croeso Fund.
The fund is open to bids from organisations working with sanctuary seekers in Wales and has already made its first payment with a further number currently being assessed.
Our helpline is available to sponsors and to people from Ukraine. Sponsors in Wales can call the free helpline on 0808 175 1508 for advice.
For Ukrainian nationals and their families, help to apply to come to the United Kingdom is available by calling +44 808 164 8810 (outside the UK) or people can call 0808 164 8810 if they are in the UK. If you cannot contact UK 0808 numbers call +44 (0)175 390 7510.