Homes for Ukraine one year on: scheme can be the foundation for better conditions for all migrants
Homes for Ukraine (HfU), the Government’s hosting scheme developed in response to protecting those fleeing the war in Ukraine, could be used as a basis for similar schemes for a wider range of nationalities. According to the findings of a new study, the centrally developed scheme has been largely successful and has shown that hosting can assist vulnerable people fleeing conflict.
Research by experts at the University of Nottingham Rights Lab collected data through interviews and surveys of hosts signed up to the HfU scheme to understand their motivations and experiences, and to inform and improve existing and future hosting schemes.
The research uncovered several significant positive learnings stemming from the HfU scheme, confirming that hosts were generally favourable to the HfU scheme throughout the process, praising the ease of registration, welcoming the £350 monthly Government payment, and appreciating the Government’s involvement in the delivery of the scheme.
Hosts reported key factors influencing their decisions to be involved as:
- On-going and extensive media coverage of the Russian invasion of Ukraine which
promoted an affinity with those fleeing Ukraine.
- Overwhelming feelings of injustice and immorality felt at the invasion.
- The short-term nature of the scheme and the fact that guests would have access to benefits and the ability to work.
- That the scheme was designed, endorsed and advertised by central government.
The research also shows largely positive sentiments from hosts towards the process and practicalities of hosting Ukrainian refugees, with three-quarters of hosts stating they would at least consider hosting again. Hosts acknowledged that prior to the scheme most of them had not actively been involved in hosting or supporting migrant populations, however, more than 100,000 Britons registered an interest in hosting Ukrainians within a day of the launch of the scheme.
One host who took part in the study commented: “I think just seeing the news, seeing the appalling way in which the Ukrainians were being treated and that war was declared and that they didn’t want that and we just both felt a want to help.”
Some hosts did express anxiety about hosting other population groups and felt they wouldn’t consider housing other nationalities. These sentiments could be considered reflective of current government rhetoric and policy towards specific nationalities as well as wider media coverage. The media portrayal of the situation and the offer given to Ukrainians by the Government was uncommon: people fleeing different crises are perceivably portrayed differently in the media, often negatively in line with dominant anti-migrant and hostile environment rhetoric.
However, hosts involved in HfU schemes reflected their experience of participating in the scheme had challenged their perceptions about who they considered deserving of assistance and who they may be willing to host in the future.
However, there were a range of key concerns raised, namely that the scheme was heavily bureaucratic, there were a series of spatial, financial, emotional and lifestyle challenges, there was a lack of organised training and support for hosts and a lack of realistic and available move-on options.
The study, conducted over three months (August to October 2022) by researchers at the University of Nottingham’s Rights Lab, was commissioned and funded by Hope at Home, a charity that runs a national hosting scheme for survivors of modern slavery, as well as social justice and housing charity Commonweal Housing.
The report identifies three pivotal elements to the hosting journey and based on the implementation of the HfU scheme outlines for each element crucial learnings and recommendations for government, local authorities, hosting and third sector organisations, and hosts to consider.
Additionally, the organisations behind the report are calling for:
- The hosting sector to apply practical learnings from the HfU scheme.
- The Government to change its narrative and policy around migration and provide safe and legal routes of entry into the UK for all population groups.
- The third sector to continue to challenge the narrative around the anti-migrant rhetoric. Changing the narrative is necessary as the framing of the war in Ukraine and HfU by Government and the media was crucial to its success, and hosting organisations can take and apply positive learnings from this.
- Any future such hosting scheme(s) to have collaboration from a range of stakeholders, build on the successes of HfU and apply to all population groups.
Ashley Horsey, Chief Executive at Commonweal Housing, said: “Changing the narrative and by extension changing the treatment of migrants considered less deserving must be a priority of all involved in the migration, hosting and housing sectors, and we must work collectively to challenge the Government to reform the harmful policies stemming from the hostile environment.
“The HfU scheme appears to have started to break down some of the barriers and preconceived ideas hosts had about specific nationalities: we must now use this momentum to the change the narrative, and change policy. Commonweal has taken further steps in this area as the growing injustices continue to alarm us, and we are grateful for the research by Rights Lab and the work of Hope at Home to bring these injustices, and the solutions, to the fore.”
Kate Garbers, lead author and Senior Research Fellow in Policy Evidence and Survivor Support at the University of Nottingham’s Rights Lab, said: “This research shows that the Homes for Ukraine scheme was largely a success and shows that hosting can provide a viable accommodation option – the scheme was established quickly, local communities stepped up, the government enabled it through visas and right to work, and people came via safe and legal routes.
“The Homes for Ukraine scheme and its success should set a precedent of how society can respond to such crises and provides the foundations of a model that can be further developed and considered for existing and future hosting schemes.”
Jared Hodgson, CEO at Hope at Home said: “We have first-hand experience as hosts ourselves and of running a national hosting scheme that this kind of temporary accommodation works for a wide range of people. With the right training, matching, safeguarding and trauma-informed support, hosts and guests can thrive and mutually benefit from such arrangements. I welcome the findings from this report, particularly around the key recommendations which are helpful for all of the stakeholders involved.”