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World News

Christians call for government to continue backing Homes for Ukraine scheme

by Donna Birrell

More than 30 refugee charities and organisations have written to the Prime Minister to get assurances the Homes for Ukraine scheme will continue to get government backing and support.

There's concern the initiative is being "quietly phased out" - with host families worried ministers won't increase support to match the rising cost of living. Households are currently offered £350 a month for hosting somebody who has fled the conflict in Ukraine, but there are calls for that amount to be doubled.

Since the scheme launched in March, it's believed more than 96,000 Ukrainian refugees have arrived in the UK.

It comes as a BBC investigation has found that more than 100 unaccompanied child refugees from across the world have gone missing from hotels in the UK over a 14 month period.

It says 116 children, who arrived here between July 2021 and this August, were temporarily housed by the government in hotels, but charities fear they are now at risk of being exploited.

Dr Krish Kandiah is a Christian and the founder of Home for Good, a charity supporting vulnerable children. He is also a director of Sanctuary Foundation which helps people welcome Ukrainian refugees into their home. The charity has signed the letter to Liz Truss calling on the Homes for Ukraine scheme to continue. 

He told Premier: "The big issue is the use of hotels and institutional care. We've been arguing for many years back when I was running Home for Good, that the best place for children to grow up is in families. 

"Children have to be under 18 to be classified as children and they've often been sent ahead by their families. Often it's from places like Afghanistan, where mum and dad are thinking 'if our kids stay here, they're going to be recruited into the army or forced to fight for someone we don't believe in.' So they get their kids out of the country as quick as they can. They often send the boys because they're nervous that the girls will be just too vulnerable and they pay people to bring kids here. 

"Often there's a lot of swindling and deception. What these kids need is love and support when they arrive. They don't need to be criminalised and they definitely don't need to be sent to somewhere like Rwanda. But sadly, because there's a lack of available homes like foster homes or supported lodging, the government often has no choice but to put people into hotels. Ofsted have been arguing for a long time that that's completely inappropriate. These young people need love and support. I've visited a few of these places and it's not somewhere I'd want to stay.

"Sometimes kids are running away to be with wider family, they've made that choice. But often it's traffickers that stay in touch with the kids after they get taken into the hotels and then they get used for either sexual exploitation drugs or labour. That's a huge challenge and we've got to do better for these young people."

With regard to the Homes for Ukraine scheme, a government spokesperson said:

"The Homes for Ukraine scheme will continue as the UK government and British people continue to go above and beyond to support those fleeing war.

"All arrivals have access to benefits and employment from day one. The majority of sponsors want to continue hosting for longer than six months.

"Where guests do move on, they have a number of options, including renting or finding a new sponsor.

"Councils have a duty to ensure families are not left without a roof over their heads, and receive £10,500 a person to cover costs."


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