Published Monday, 27th February 2023

Could you offer a new home to Ukrainians who have found a safe refuge in Reigate & Banstead?

It is now one year since Russia invaded Ukraine triggering a humanitarian crisis which has forced over 8 million Ukrainians to seek protection across Europe. With neither side looking likely to achieve an outright military victory, the refugee situation has been exacerbated, and is set to continue.

Many of the initial six-month hosting arrangements have come to an end, and while the UK government has since announced a process to ‘rematch’ Ukrainian refugees with new hosts or sponsors, uptake has not been as good as it could be. Part of this is to do with lack of information as to what is expected from potential sponsors, or the kind of support available to those wishing to take up host duties.

Reigate & Banstead Borough Council is urgently seeking new accommodation for Ukrainian guests already living in the borough.

Become a sponsor

If you have suitable living space available for at least six months you could consider becoming a ‘sponsor’ under the government’s Homes for Ukraine scheme and be re-matched with guests looking for a new host. Alternatively, you could consider becoming a landlord, either taking in lodgers as a ‘resident landlord’ or renting out your accommodation, both of which would have tax implications.

New hosts, as well as previous hosts providing a home for new families, will be eligible to receive the government’s monthly £350 thank you payment for up to 12 months. In addition, there will be a Surrey-wide top up payment of £250 to compensate for the rise in energy bills will continue from the end of March 2023 – this will be kept under an ongoing review with a further decision to be made in March 2024

More homes needed

Cllr Caroline Neame, Executive Member for Housing and Support said: “One year since the war, we continue to demonstrate our support to Ukraine. I’m incredibly proud that Reigate & Banstead has welcomed over 300 Ukrainians since the Russian invasion. Every ward in the borough has provided safe homes for people fleeing the fighting and the incredible stories of resilience and new friendships have been humbling

“As the war goes on, our Ukrainian guests are unable to resume the lives they had to leave behind, so we need more homes to help them build a life here. If you would like to help, our Resettlement Team is keen to hear from you and will guide you through the process.”

Rewarding experience

In June 2022, local resident Jill opened her home to a Ukrainian family of four.

She said: “They have settled well into our household and are very careful not to cause us any inconvenience. We have found the whole experience very rewarding and know that they have been very grateful for the opportunity to live in safety.

“We would strongly recommend this opportunity to anyone who has the space and willingness to help those suffering as a result of the conflict in Ukraine. We are also very grateful for the support and advice offered by Reigate & Banstead Borough Council, Reigate St Mary’s Church, Epsom Methodist Church and the Kingswood Support for Ukraine group.”

Over the past twelve months, the Council has played an important role in supporting hosts and their guests, from carrying out property inspections and safeguarding checks on sponsors to administering payments. Our Resettlement Team provides weekly drop-in sessions offering the chance for sponsors and guests to meet other people, ask questions, get advice, socialise and practise English. While many hosts have expressed a willingness to keep their guests, across the Borough, there are those who for one reason or another are unable to continue with the scheme.

We are looking for sponsors to step in where an original sponsor placement cannot continue. This is why we are asking those who can, to come forward so we can pair them with respective guests through a government process called ‘rematching’. Rematching offers guests the opportunity to stay in the same community they have already settled in – allowing children to continue attending the same school they have already made friends in and ensuring that guests can continue to lean on and build community ties. It also means that guests can continue to go to workplaces they have secured.

Anyone considering providing a home to Ukrainians can contact the resettlement team for guidance via their email.

Further information for Ukrainian refugee sponsors in Reigate & Banstead can be found on the council’s website.

Homes for Ukrainians 2023

Caption: Local host Jill (second from right) at her home with a Ukrainian family of four that she has hosted since June 2022.