Support for Ukraine
Ukraine webinar 16 May 2022
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We held a live online public webinar to provide an update on Ukrainian nationals coming to settle in Wiltshire. A recording and transcript of the webinar is available below, as well as the questions that were raised during the session.
View the webinar - Monday 16 May 2022
Good evening, everyone. Thank you very much for joining us tonight. I think it's fair to say when I joined the British Army as a young subaltern, gosh, thirty odd years ago, I thought the Cold War was coming to an end and we'd never see the kind of scenes or face the circumstances that we are facing now.
But sadly, events have proved just how wrong that hope would have been. I'm sure we've all been horrified by the heartbreaking events that have unfolded in Ukraine over the last few months. The initial feeling of helplessness that we all felt was clearly rapidly overtaken by a desire to do everything we could to help. That can feel quite challenging at times, to be faced with an event like that and thinking, gosh, how on earth can we help?
How can we step up? Wiltshire has always been really good in leading the way in those circumstances, I don't think it's any surprise that as a county we've stepped up again to support Ukraine and its people. Our country has a long history, very long history of supporting people fleeing war and war torn countries. And once again, it's great that people are offering to do everything they can.
So this evening we wanted to talk through with you the support we've been providing for Ukrainian people coming to Wiltshire. The important role that you've got to play. The situation has been incredibly fast moving, government has brought forward a number of different schemes and programmes, and those have evolved rapidly over time, and so we hope tonight will be useful to clarify a lot of the information available and make sure that we give a good, clear view of the current picture.
And I'm very proud to say, Wiltshire has been one of the most generous areas in the UK with many people offering their homes to Ukrainians fleeing the conflict in their own country, just as we also have been with Syrian refugee programme and the Afghan refugee programme. The latest figures show that we've got 2,830 households registered with the Homes for Ukraine scheme in Wiltshire.
Currently, 416 of those households are matched with a total of 1,150 individuals from Ukraine, and 787 visas have been issued so far. Our teams are working really hard to provide support and carry out the checks needed for those arriving in Wiltshire. We know our communities are joining together. Hubs have been created all over the county to support and provide networking assistance, all the help that's needed.
Added to that, the immense generosity of people donating money and resources, and as I've said, we know Wiltshire always steps up to play its part in providing a welcoming place for those fleeing war and needing help. So I'm now going to pass over to Claire Edgar, who is our Director for Whole Life Pathway, but also more importantly in this case, leads the team which has been coordinating our support here in Wiltshire.
Claire and her team have done an amazing job dealing with a situation that is fluid, where often we are finding or we found guidance has been changing two, three times a day. It has taken a little while for government to sort of work out what the schemes will look like, but now they're in place and now that they are crystallising and the guidance is changing a little less frequently, we're at a point where we can be moving over to making sure that you understand what it is that we can do, that you can do, and how we can all work together to help.
So thank you, and over to Claire.
Thanks, Richard and welcome, everybody. Lovely to see you all online. First of all, I just wanted to take this opportunity to thank everybody on behalf of the council who has provided the level of support that you have in local communities for people arriving from Ukraine, Wiltshire really is quite an amazing county in regards to this, as Richard's already highlighted.
We are one of the highest number of local authorities in terms of people who have registered support and indeed numbers of individuals who are already sponsors, which I'll come on to in just a second. So, yeah, if we could just move on to the next slide. What I'm going to initially talk to you about is the two government schemes that you may have already heard of in the media.
And the reason it's important to understand what these two schemes are is that they are different, and really what we wanted to do today was sort of help you understand some of the subtle differences between the schemes and indeed the role of the local authority in both of these schemes. So first of all, the Homes for Ukraine scheme is the scheme that the local authority has a level of responsibility for, and it is indeed for individuals where you may have already registered your interest in becoming a sponsor and you may have found a guest from Ukraine and that could be an individual or indeed a family,
and then what you're doing is looking to match, and then what we do is we come online with you and offer you a level of support. That support includes, as you probably be aware, for those if you have already gone through this process, some level of checks. So what we do is we do DBS checks, so that's checks around safeguarding and work with the police, national computer information.
We do accommodation checks, and that's to ensure that the property that you have offered meets the standard requirements that have been set by government, and we also go on and undertake a welfare check. So we have a small team currently that's growing quite vastly of caseworkers that undertake this activity, and indeed, we have a refugee resettlement and migration team that will respond to any queries that you may have.
You'll be also aware, for those of you that are linked into this scheme, that your guest will receive £200 as a one off payment, and that is all of the individuals that have come from Ukraine. So if you have a family of four, they should all receive a one off payment of £200 and you as the sponsor will receive £350 per month during the stay of the guest.
So for example, if your guests remain with you for six months, you would receive that £350 per month during that time. We are really heavily reliant on you for information, and indeed, you know, it's important that you tell us when people arrive because we don't always receive that information from central government in a timely way. All the checks that we undertake through the Homes for Ukraine scheme are really important and we want to try and achieve them before your guest arrives,
but we also recognise the need to support people to leave Ukraine as quickly as possible, and so has the government, therefore what they have done is put in additional checks at the border, so to speak, to ensure that visas can be issued in a timely way. Therefore, if your guest has arrived, it won't matter if these checks haven't taken place,
so please be assured we will undertake them, but it doesn't slow the visa application down. We also receive £10,000 per individual as a local authority, and the idea behind that money is really to provide those individuals who are coming across on the Homes for Ukraine scheme with additional support and resources. What we're really keen to do is to enable the family or individual to come and settle as quickly as possible, signpost and guide people into the services that are available to them.
So for example, registering with a GP, a dentist or indeed support in accessing benefits and hopefully employment if people are looking to stay. So you can find out more as you can see on the websites below. But also tonight, I just wanted to touch on the Ukraine Family Scheme. So again, many of you might be aware of this scheme, but it is different to the Homes for Ukraine scheme.
And the ethos behind the family scheme was very much when it first came out was really about families and individuals who had connections in Ukraine being able to ensure that their family member could come back into the UK as quickly as possible. And there's an assumption being made that those family members will be able to support the individuals as they arrive.
They will almost replace the role, if you like, of the caseworker, so the local authority doesn't always have sight of the individuals that come into the council from the family scheme. We are very reliant on the public and individuals to tell us of those individuals that might arrive under the family scheme, and we would urge people to do that.
The reason we want to do that really is to ensure that we've got the support in the right places. Individuals on the family scheme, just as there was on the Homes for Ukraine scheme, can access services, they can access obviously registering with the GP, they can access benefits and they can access education. So it's really important that we work together in order to understand everybody who's coming into Wiltshire to make sure that we have the services in the right places.
And again, you'll be able to see that there is further information on the government website around the Ukraine family scheme. So also to note that just on our Wiltshire Council website, we have a helping crisis link which anyone can access, but it's just to sort of reiterate for those individuals who are on the family scheme or know of individuals that are on the family scheme,
there's further information there in terms of being able to access benefits, et cetera. Thank you. So can I just move on to the next slide, please? So obviously what we'll do is be mindful that questions will keep coming in and we will have an opportunity at the end to answer as many questions as we possibly can. But again, just wanted to touch on some of the support that we are already offering,
and it's important to recognise that this really is coming at it from the Homes for Ukraine scheme, which is the main scheme that we've been asked by local government, sorry, central government to support. So what we've done is, I'm sure, many of you will be aware that visas are issued separately by government, and as I highlighted earlier, they will undertake those initial checks to ensure that the flow of visas takes place in a timely way.
We obviously, as I mentioned, undertake the checks on accommodation and ensure that there's this level of safeguarding that's undertaken too. We make the payments that I've already alluded to and indeed the practical support that the caseworkers within my team will be able to provide individuals on the Homes for Ukraine scheme. Thanks, Dominic. So education, you'll be aware, I'm sure, for those individuals that have already accessed the Homes for Ukraine scheme and indeed the family scheme that all children and young people arriving from Ukraine can access education and childcare whilst in the UK. I think that's a really important point for many people as they arrive in the United Kingdom and indeed in Wiltshire.
We obviously have a very strong ethos in Wiltshire around education and indeed ensuring that children can access the early years settings that are available to them. So school placements for individuals, families can apply through the council website and in the normal way and we've seen a number of families being able to do that in the last few months and that's been very successful, and indeed the process is working extremely well.
What we would say as well is that children under the age of two can attend nursery, a preschool or indeed access a childminder in their area, depending on some of the available spaces. Parents pay for the child to attend that. Some children aged two may qualify for an early years entitlement, which means there'll be no cost to the parent.
This is for 15 hours per week, for 38 weeks per year. For children aged three and four, early years entitlement means there will be no cost to the parent and indeed 15 hours a week per, sorry, 15 hours per week for 38 weeks per year. For those parents who start working and pay taxes in the UK, their three and four year olds are entitled to up to 30 hours per week, which is double the entitlement,
we just touched on there. This all sounds quite complex and indeed can be quite confusing for individuals, but our caseworkers are available to help and signpost people to the right place and indeed provide the right up to date information going forward. And indeed there is further information on the links provided, I hope you find it interesting. So again, please do access these links,
we will make sure that they are available through the chat and online indeed and we'll update the website accordingly as well. So also what we've recognised is education for adults, which is really important, and the first thing to say is that we know that English as a second language for people coming from Ukraine is going to be a challenge for many individuals.
It is not necessarily going to be their second language, but for some it can be, so our sort of ethos within the council is to try and speak to those individuals who have got strong English skills and link in with them and try to understand the Ukrainian culture better and indeed wherever possible, link in to those services whereby English could be taught to individuals on a community and informal basis.
However, we recognise that might take some time and indeed it's about building up relationships with those people who've already arrived. So what we have got is online a face to face English language courses and they are delivered throughout Wiltshire. We also recognise the size of the county, which I'm sure will come up in some of the questions and answers that flow from this discussion.
But we are trying extremely hard to ensure that it's delivered throughout the community, but as I say, these will also be online as well, so again, further information is within our website and indeed on the link below. So as you can see, courses range from one to two hour sessions and indeed ten sessions lasting two hours each. So it's a really strong English is an opportunity for people to learn English whilst they're here,
and indeed we support and try to signpost people to the best courses that are available to them going forward. Thanks, Dominic. OK, so I'm sure many of you will have questions around housing and accommodation, but just to reiterate, as I said earlier, the Homes for Ukraine scheme, we do undertake checks and that really is about ensuring that the property is suitable and safe.
And indeed what we are working towards is trying to obtain those visits and discussions with yourselves as early as possible to avoid any breakdown or any challenges, in terms of the accommodation that you've identified as being suitable, the checks are done by the team and they're really approachable, and indeed, if there's any issues that we can resolve, we will do that,
we will try to find ways through to encourage and support you with your, you know, your desire to become a sponsor. So for example, if somebody required a fire alarm, we would be able to signpost you to various organisations that would be able to support you with that. So our accommodation checks are done and indeed, so smoke detectors may be something that we look at as well.
So please bear with us, we have a small team undertaking the accommodation checks, but they are working at pace to deliver this and hopefully those if you have met them will find them very approachable in terms of being able to meet the needs that have been set out by central government. OK, sorry Dominic, next slide please, and you'll be aware many of you online and for those of you that are new to this, I'm sure it comes as no surprise that our community offer is second to none in Wiltshire.
We have really, really had some amazing contacts from the voluntary and community sector, some of which are very well established community organisations and others that have just organically grown because they wish to support individuals and families fleeing Ukraine. So we have community hubs that have been set up in Salisbury, Devizes and in Chippenham and other parts of the county that themselves are providing a level of support and contact for individuals who are sponsors, which is exactly what we want to see.
We are happy to have conversations with these community hubs and indeed we work really closely with Wiltshire Together, who are a charity organisation that bring other organisations together in order to support as many of the voluntary community sector organisations as we possibly can. What we're very conscious of is we want to think local and act personal, which is a bit of a quote from adult services.
But by that what we mean is that we really recognise that your communities are where individuals and families will be living. So what we want to do is ensure that the support is available and as I say, is organically grown in your area. We will be able to provide a level of individual casework and support to individual families, but we also want to enable people to live and enjoy their time in wheelchair. Donations, as you'll be aware, can be made in various charities organisations. And indeed, some of the community hubs will enable you to drop certain goods off, et cetera, to them, and they'll be able to distribute them more widely across individuals and families, but also two separate organisations as well.
And what we would say is do keep it simple and indeed please engage with these hubs because they are a real wealth of knowledge and support as well. So just again, just for your information, if you wish to make a donation: Ukraine Disaster Emergency Committee Crisis Appeal, the information there is on our website, please contact them and they can signpost and help you see what donations look like and how best you can support.
And of course, I touched on Wiltshire Together, which again, you will be able to access and link in with them, and they can offer signposting and support too. Thanks, Dominic. So what does it take to become a sponsor? So I think you will many of you, I'm sure tonight are very aware of this information, but again, for those of you who are new to this you must kind of recognise the guidance that the government has handed down, it can be accessed very easily on their website, which we'll obviously share with you. But essentially you do need a spare room or at least a spare room or a separate, self-contained accommodation that is unoccupied and it must be available for six months. You are not expected to cover the costs of food and living, and what we would do as part of the Homes for Ukraine scheme is, of course, support individuals to ensure that they were able to access the benefits so that they could afford the food and living expenses.
We also, as I said earlier, will give the individual people from Ukraine £200 as a one off payment until those benefits can be set up. What we would also say is that individuals can access work whilst they're here too, so our caseworkers are working very closely with Department of Work and Pension and indeed other employers across the county in order to access and see if there's any available employment.
So what we're really looking for in terms of the sponsor is to be that coordinator, come to us with queries, et cetera, and indeed we will support as best as we possibly can to signpost and encourage people to access the most appropriate support available to them. Thanks Dom. So that was a bit of a whistle-stop tour, I hope it was helpful, but I think the main purpose of tonight really was to hear from yourselves and hopefully we can answer some queries.
We've received a high number of enquiries through our Refugee Resettlement and Migration team that we've tried to answer as quickly as possible to individuals. What we are very conscious of is that we know there was some themes coming out that lots of people were asking, which is why we're here tonight really to try and answer those questions for you as best as we possibly can.
Please understand that we have responded to this in a very timely way. As I said earlier, Wiltshire Council is one of the largest councils in terms of numbers of people that have registered an interest, and we are so grateful and so proud of everybody across Wiltshire who have done that, but we are a very small team and we are reacting as best as we possibly can and we are growing.
We're out to recruitment internally and externally to ensure that the team is robust and able to respond as quickly as possible. So really it's kind of over to yourselves and indeed welcome everybody and look forward to some of the questions. Thank you.
Thanks, Claire. So that was a really informative presentation, Claire, and as you said, we've already had some questions in and I know the team are answering some of the others. So I'll start with the first question, Claire. So someone has asked, I'm a host and I'm still waiting for my accommodation check, when will that happen? So, Richard, would you be able to answer that one for us please?
Yes, certainly, thanks. Checks that the local authorities have been asked to carry out can now take place after your guest has arrived, I know initially we were told by government it had to be carried out before guests arrived, but the Home Office are now undertaking their own checks prior to guests arrival to try and speed that process up.
It was one of the sticking points as the scheme got up and running. So we at Wiltshire will continue to carry out required checks. The team will be in touch with sponsors to arrange them. We'll do that as soon as we can, but it won't delay the issuing of guests visas. Because we've got one of the highest numbers of Ukrainian nationals coming to settle here,
it is placing a significant workload on our teams. We are coping, but it's taking a little while to get round to all of them, so we've added to staffing to help respond to that. It may be taking a little longer perhaps than you'd like, but we will get to you as soon as we can.
Thank you. Claire, the next question's for you. Our guest is a nursery teacher, so will she be able to have her role here?
Thanks, Ceri. Yeah, great question, particularly around the fact I was just touching on people hopefully gaining employment whilst they remain here. So what we would need to look at is an overseas criminal record check, and I believe in Ukraine, these are called criminal records certificates, and they can be obtained through the Ukrainian consulate. So we do have some information around that, that again, I think we can share hopefully tonight or indeed more widely. And, you know, really that's about ensuring from the count from Wiltshire and indeed the United Kingdom that we follow the normal standard safeguarding checks when working with children. But once that checks being done and indeed, you know, all the information is available and suitable reference, et cetera, then obviously we can support an individual to apply for posts as they become available.
Thanks, Claire. So Richard, that's an issue with Ukrainian students age 16 to 18 with little or no English language who have been told they cannot go to school until September when they will need to secure a sixth form place. What support can the council provide for them?
Yes, thank you. And we've certainly been hearing that there are some issues about the sort of difference between Ukraine's education system and England's education system around that, that age group as well. The process is that they should contact the school in the first instance and the school should be able to offer them a place. They should be offering to place the child, either in year ten or in year 12, if they're in year 11 at the moment to try and address that issue and the difference of sort of the curriculum between the different countries. They can then access support from the post 16 Participation and Skills team with a referral form to be posted on www.workwiltshire.co.uk later this week. This will enable the child to make an informed choice about their next steps and the range of provision available post 16. We're advising schools they may want to develop an initial assessment to check suitability for sixth form in September.
Brilliant. Thank you very much Richard. Claire, the Ukrainian staying with me is a qualified nurse but does not speak English yet. Are there any language courses available to get her up to an acceptable level to work in her field? Yeah.
It's the short answer, but thanks Ceri. Really good question again. So yeah, there is courses available and Wiltshire College is actually really happy to welcome anyone from Ukraine onto their summer English as a second language course, which I believe starts on Monday 20 June and runs to Thursday 14 July. There are also employability skill courses that are being run as well, and that applies to people, students of the age of 16 too, so there is courses available for individuals who require development around their English skills and again we can try and signpost individuals to those courses as they continue to roll through the year.
Thanks, Claire. Richard, will the council help match refugees with the sponsor and help to secure visas?
No, I'm afraid not. That that's absolutely not our role and government, the Home Office have been very clear there. The role of the person who is interested in being a sponsor is to look to, to find that refugee to match with. If you're looking to do that, you can link with the community hubs and a number of charities who are providing matching schemes.
The issuing of visas is entirely down to the UK government. So our role starts once we are informed that someone has been matched and that they are coming here when we start doing checks and then preparing for the work around arrival and supporting them when they're actually inside Wiltshire.
Great, thanks very much, Richard. Claire, what is the situation regarding the Ukrainian people driving in the UK using their Ukrainian driving license? I'm hosting a mum with four children and we cannot all fit in the car, but if she was able to drive she could borrow it to take them places.
Yeah, another great question. So according to the Government website, you can use your Ukrainian driving license for the first 12 months when you arrive into the UK and then you would need to exchange it for a British license, and again, you can find more information through the government website I think "Move to the UK if you're coming from Ukraine" is what it's called.
And indeed we can add that to tonight's information for people so that they can access it easily.
Brilliant. Thanks Claire, and yeah, we'll put the links on the website when we publish the recording, so we'll make sure these are all available. So Richard, our nearest school is too far to walk and the road is dangerous without pavement. There is no bus transport. Is there any provision given the concerns and the mum not being able to drive?
Yes, thank you. If you're looking at the nearest school, some we've recently been made aware, some bus operators are looking at working up a scheme to offer free or reduced travel tickets for Ukrainian guests. We'll share details when we've confirmed them. At the moment I know there's a little bit of uncertainty and a little bit of confusion there, but as soon as we've got clarity, we'll make sure that appears in the sponsor newsletter and on our website.
I think looking more broadly in that we will need to be finding school accommodation for Ukrainians who may be in comparatively rural areas or we may not be able to look at the nearest local school. There may be a role also from the council in our own role to assist with transport there, but it will be very circumstance specific and so we will need to be looking at that, I'm afraid, on a case by case basis.
Thanks, Richard. Claire, I've tried sending emails, but I did not get a response. I'd also like to volunteer my support. However, again, I haven't had a response to those emails.
Thanks, Ceri. Yeah, and apologies, we are trying to get through the emails as quickly as possible, I do accept there may be some delay in that, as we mentioned earlier, the team has obviously been hitting the ground running from a point where we weren't aware that this was going to happen, so we've responded as quickly as possible,
and as Richard said, we are growing the team in a very short space of time. Our inboxes checked every single day and we do try to respond, but we have had a huge high volume of calls and emails coming through regarding questions in this, so we will try to get you as quickly as possible. In terms of volunteer support, as we touched on earlier, the Council is actually performing the accommodation and safety and welfare checks currently, and we're making these a priority. One of the reasons why we've chosen to do it within the Council is indeed because of the DBS checks that those people who are undertaking those checks have to have as well, many of our staff already have those in place, so we can mobilise that very quickly.
We don't as a council currently have a volunteer coordination scheme, but our community hubs, as I mentioned earlier, are really where a lot of this activity is taking place. They are springing up all over Wiltshire, but there is some named ones out there, so for example, Love Devizes and indeed the hub in Salisbury and as I mentioned earlier, Wiltshire Together are really keen in terms of being able to help us and support us to coordinate a level of support to the voluntary and community sector.
And we've also got further information around those hubs through the key information links within Wiltshire Council, so I would urge people to have a look there as well. And we do have our Community Engagement Managers who are really on board with this and have been fantastic in supporting the team in being able to reach out widely to the community and voluntary sector.
So there's a two way dialogue as well, so please do access that website and have a look and see what other opportunities are out there.
Great, thanks very much, Claire. Richard, has Wiltshire Council considered or is there a need for shared arrangements in some cases, for example, if a relative in Wiltshire can support a family or friend from the Ukraine and offer all day support and meals but doesn't have enough bedrooms, do you try to match someone who could offer beds and maybe laundry facilities, but not all day use of their home?
Yes, thank you. This is definitely getting into the complex area now and we've had a couple of, I've certainly seen a couple of emails referring to the potential desire to bring over additional family members, to a host family under the scheme, and it's not entirely clear with government guidance how that should work. So our assessment would be it needs to be an independent arrangement,
if hosts want to jointly support a Ukrainian family, that's fine, but they need to identify a main host which would have to be where the family is sleeping, and that's because we as an authority are required to make sure that we've passed accommodation and safeguarding checks. If it was a joint support arrangement, the host would need to inform us because the other sponsor family would then need safeguarding checks as well.
However, government is clear that there is only the £350 a month "Thank you" payment, one per sponsor family and therefore that would have to be divided, if it were going to be divided between the two hosts who were assisting, we're not able to provide more than that because the money is coming directly from government. I think it's probably worth noting that the local authority may well have a role to play when it comes to re matching families if we
end up with host sponsor relationships breaking down, but we just don't have that role in the initial matching and it's very clear, been made very clear to us by government that isn't our role here. So yes, we could try and help, but this will be quite a confused situation.
Great, thank you very much for trying to shed some light there, Richard.
Claire, would you be able to remind us of the site to claim the immediate £200 and start the money to the family?
Thanks, Ceri. Yeah, what happens is we need to be notified through the resettlement team that your family have arrived. Unfortunately, we don't get that clarification from yourselves. So if you could let us know and then your guests will be given an electronic voucher worth the £200. What we do want to double check, though, is that we're sending it to the right person,
so we do like to make sure that that address, that email address that the guest is giving us is correct, so we would ask for confirmation of that address as well to make sure it is going to the right person. So there is a process to follow, but if you could alert us as soon as your guest arrives, we can ensure that process is started immediately.
What we also do as well, because it's a voucher and you're able to access that money through pay points, which are often in the local shops, is we will also provide you with a bit of information as to where those shops are, near to you as well, so do get in touch as soon as your guests arrive, then we can make sure that all that process all starts as quickly as possible.
Great, thank you. Claire, will Ukraine pupils receive free school meals? Yes, it's my understanding that Ukraine pupils will be entitled to free school meals?
Thank you. Richard, our community is keen to support Ukrainian guests settling into our area. How can we go about doing this?
I think it probably depends where you are, but the best place to start would be to look and find your nearest community hub. These have started, and I've sprung up all over Wiltshire. If you look on our support for Ukraine web pages, you can find out where they're currently based or if there isn't one, we've got people wanting to form additional community hubs all the time.
But also look at the Wiltshire Together website, which is providing that information too. So there's an awful lot out there if you want to help. So yeah, reach out and find some like minded people. Thank you. Claire, do we believe we have enough school places? Yes, we have sufficient places across our schools, and we will be working closely with families as they apply for those places. We welcome the Ukrainian children and young people into the schools and there is no sort of issues or adverse impact on Wiltshire children as they come into the school process.
Thank you. Richard, what happens if the relationship between a host family and their Ukrainian guests breaks down?
I think the first thing we'd urge you to do is email: firstname.lastname@example.org with information on the breakdown and the current situation. We're acutely aware that we're dealing with people who are going to be traumatised, they're fleeing a war zone, and things are not going to be as simple as perhaps we would hope in all cases.
So we'd respond, first we'd look to try and offer advice and support to resolve any issues. If all else fails, we'd make efforts to organise another placement but our team, as we've said, is extremely busy. It may not be able to happen immediately. It is something that I've been discussing through the Local Government Association and James Jamieson, the chair there, talking to him about it on Friday, last Friday, about the need to make sure that we have got a bank of people that we can use to try and assist,
if relationships do break down, ideally we'd hope they wouldn't. So if you feel there are urgent needs for the placement breaking down, I'd urge anyone to call our safeguarding number, particularly if there are children involved and there's any concern about safeguarding: 0300 456 0100. And there's also and advice on child protection at Wiltshire Council and advice and contact for adult safeguarding: Your Care Your Support Wiltshire.
And again, we'll make sure that details are included.
Thanks, Richard. And Claire, are you able to provide a rematch, Richard, did touch on this briefly, but are we able to provide a rematch if one family relationship does break down?
So there is, we're still awaiting some further government guidance on this, in fact, what we're seeing at the moment is there's a workshop tomorrow actually around the role of the local authority and re matching, so we probably will have further information to update around that, as this comes out. But as you know, we understand there's some further sort of relationships out there that have already developed and indeed that some of that can take place informally.
What we would ask, though, is that you do inform us of this as soon as possible so that we can make sure that, again, the accommodation checks take place and indeed that the welfare checks take place so that everything is exactly as it would be in a normal sponsor and guest relationship, that's the role of the council, really, is to ensure that the property is sound and that the person arriving is safe.
So we wouldn't strictly be doing the re matching at the moment, that could, as I say, change moving forward. But currently, you know, we do accept and I think the government also accepts that some of these relationships have already evolved and indeed this this charity organisations locally, nationally that are doing some of this work anyway and obviously, as I say, please let us know if that happens, because what we would then need to do is follow that up.
And then just bear in mind as the sponsor, the lead sponsor, as Richard talked about earlier, is the individual that receives the £350 and is the person that still remains responsible in terms of some of the requirements that that we've touched on earlier, so it's important that if that shifts and changes that we're able to support and navigate that together.
Thanks, Claire, that's great. So Richard, with all the support for Ukrainians, have we forgotten about Afghan people who have come to Wiltshire?
No, absolutely not. We pledged earlier this year to provide 20 Afghan families with homes in Wiltshire, our resettlement team is continuing to work to achieve this. I think it's fair to say that there have been complexities trying to match some families with precisely where they would like to be inside the UK, but alongside our partners we're supporting a number of refugees currently in the bridging hotel in Wiltshire. We've got a number of families settled in Wiltshire.
We would expect to see more settling into the country in long term accommodation soon. So, so that work continues and is ongoing and I wouldn't want it to be forgotten. It's another really important, really important piece of the support that we've been providing as an authority and as a country.
Thanks, Richard. Claire, what happens if a Ukrainian guest comes to stay in Wiltshire, however, the owner of the property is not based in Wiltshire?
That's a really interesting question, isn't it? So we would work with the other local authority in terms of linking in with the host where the property might be, and we would still need to carry out the relevant safeguarding checks, et cetera. So if the person was out of Wiltshire, but the property was in Wiltshire, we would be connecting with that local authority and obviously having access to the property would be vital to that.
But we do that, that is happening, so it shouldn't cause any difficulties, it's just to say that we would provide that level of relationship with a different local authority just to ascertain checks and make sure everything was safe. Thank you.
Claire, another question for you. I'm not hosting, but I have offered to drive refugees to the doctor's, shopping, et cetera. Do I still need to have a check done?
Regarding a DBS check, I think, yeah. So the answer to that is yes. So what we are saying as the local authority is that we would follow the normal procedures for people who were doing voluntary work, and it would be normal and expected of individuals who were performing voluntary duties to have a DBS check.
Yes. Thank you. Richard, question for you, is there a tie up between Swindon and Wiltshire councils?
So formally? No. We're required as local authorities to be putting in the same, putting in our provision in our own areas. However, I've certainly discussed this with the leader of Swindon Council. I'm sure that the Claire's professional network have been discussing this across the Southwest, certainly the Southwest are trying to work together as far as we we can to make sure that the appropriate responses are coming all over the Southwest of
the UK. When it comes to voluntary groups, I think there probably, well there is far more scope for that joint working and a tie up. If we look at the support that's gone in for the Afghan refugees, that's definitely been not just constrained to Wiltshire, it's, it's been Wiltshire, Swindon, all over, so yes it's definitely going on at the community level, but our formal role as council is very much to deal with hosts that have come forward and be matched inside our authority area.
Great. Thanks very much, Richard. Claire, someone else has asked regarding qualifications. I've had a doctor and a vet that would like to work here. How can they find out if their qualifications are valid?
Thanks, Ceri And again, really good question, and it's really interesting, isn't it, that individuals are coming across with such high, high qualifications. So it is quite likely that those sort of qualifications will need to be converted for obvious reasons. But I believe if you access the UK ENIC is linked to the UK National Information Centre, you can find out a little bit more about that.
So there is a website and it's ENIC.org.uk. But again, we can make sure that we put that in on our website, Ceri, when we put all the notes, et cetera, from tonight.
That's great. Thanks very much, Claire. So I'm just having a look at the chat for some more questions here. Claire, are Ukrainian guests able to get £200 if they arrived on the family scheme?
Unfortunately, no, it would just be the Homes for Ukraine scheme that, that the money comes into, and what we have recognised is as a council and indeed across the south west region and indeed locally and Local Government Association has also highlighted this, is the discrepancy between the two schemes. So that has been raised and we are obviously talking with central government about that, but at the moment it is only for those individuals that arrive on the Homes for Ukraine scheme.
So just to add in that we've absolutely made sure that's being raised with ministers. They are well aware of the issues. It was raised with civil servants again in conversations last Friday, so there's nothing more we can do there, we hope government will streamline the schemes, but at the moment it hasn't happened. Thanks Richard, that's very helpful.
Someone has asked if we'll be able to provide slides in Ukrainian and I'm sure, Claire, we can certainly work to try and get those you questions translated for them. We would try very much. Yeah, no problem.
Yeah, we would definitely try and get that sorted for you. Bear with me, apologies. Claire, we've got one here, apologies to put you on the spot with this one. What happens if the sponsor is a local church, who would be named?
That's a very good question. The organisation, as far as I'm aware, and I'd have to double check the guidance. There is, there is some information around organisations, but currently you have to have one lead sponsor, as we touched on earlier, and the guidance hasn't come out around what will happen for organisations. So I'm sure, for example, lots of charities, especially national charities, will want to step in as well.
But as it stands today, it's still based on the individual or family, if you like, across Wiltshire who are classed as the lead sponsor. So you'd have to as a church or a voluntary organisation and you'd have to establish who that lead sponsor would be.
Thanks, Claire. Sorry to put you on the spot with that one.
Fine. Not a problem.
Richard, how and when we request an accommodation check or does this happen automatically as a result of our permission to travel application, as we've only just applied for permission to travel letter?
You don't need to request an accommodation check. We are notified once families are matched, the information comes through to us, and we will then make contact to arrange a suitability check as soon as we can. I can't guarantee when it will be, but it will be as soon as we possibly can do it.
Great. Thank you very much.
Claire. Is there a way for people to check that their property has been registered under the scheme?
Not publicly. That's something that we would be able to do in the team, but again, that's about, there's a difference between those individuals who've registered and those individuals who have found a guest. So there's this two differences there. So there's a system that we have access to called the Foundry System which logs everybody who's registered an interest, but as you can imagine, that is different because they may not have been able to find somebody across Ukraine because they may not have connections like some other people might have.
So that is held within central government, and we have access to that from a Wiltshire perspective. But as you can imagine, that that's not public facing for a number of reasons, really. But we might be able to find out if somebody is registered on it, but at the moment, we have as Richard said at the very beginning, we have over 2,800 people on it.
So that is just for Wiltshire, so, you know, it's a very large number of people that are registered which is amazing, and it's something I'm incredibly proud of in terms of working in Wiltshire. It's phenomenal, really. But we wouldn't necessarily go in there and do that piece of work at this time.
Great. Thanks very much, Claire. So, Richard, should we apply for school places before our guests arrive? Yeah, normally we'd only accept school applications from the person who's got parental responsibility for a child. That'll be a little difficult if you're currently stuck in Ukraine or on the Polish border or somewhere in Europe. So in this instance, we're very happy to accept application forms submitted by sponsors on their behalf, once we receive the application we will contact you by email if we need any further information.
And if you want guidance on how to apply for school place, you can find it in the information pack for Ukrainian families living in Wiltshire. Again, we'll make sure those links are also round and included so people can get hold of them.
Great. Thank you very much, Richard. So we've got one here, Claire. So what, EAL support will be given to Ukrainian pupils.
So we have ethnic minority traveller support services within our schools and indeed within the council, so they would be able to access support through those, those teams. Does that answer the question, Ceri?
Yes, it does. Thank you. And for anyone who doesn't know EAL is English as an Additional Language, just in case anyone didn't know. That, it is really important that that that support is provided because we have to be honest, the vast bulk of people coming from Ukraine do not have English as a second language, Russian is the second language in Ukraine. This support is absolutely critical.
Absolutely, Richard is completely spot on, and indeed our services have really recognised that and we've had some amazing offers of support like you've just touched on in terms of translating documents, et cetera. But we do recognise that we don't have, you know, a sort of plethora of people that speak Ukrainian, so, you know, within the teams and within the support services, you know, we are really keen to continue to kind of learn the culture, and indeed, you know, that's something that we're very mindful of, and the schools have been fantastic in terms of being able to support us with that. Brilliant.
Thank you very much. And we have got some questions still in the chat, but we'll provide answers for these afterwards because I know that we can't answer them all this evening. So what we'll do is I'll pass back to Richard now just for some final closing words, and like I say, we'll make sure that we publish all of these questions afterwards so that you can see them.
All right. Thank you.
Yes, thank you, Ceri. As we clearly encountered tonight, there are a lot of questions and an awful lot of information. We're putting it all on our website, please look for Wiltshire Council, Ukraine. There's more information on the GOV.UK pages and we will make sure that we share all the links again in the chat, because there are there are far too many places to be able to sort of grab them, write them down, and doubtless you'll be coming back and thinking, gosh, what was that link that they were talking about? We'll be sharing links to the webinar, so you can watch again to catch all those links that you missed when we were talking too quickly or to share with those who couldn't attend. So on behalf of Ceri, Claire, myself, I think a couple of things to say.
First, thank you to all of you who've offered to host families. It really is great to see. It's I'm sure it's not something any of you have done lightly. It's a significant responsibility, and it really is extremely gratifying to see the way that Wiltshire is pulling together on this. Thank you to my council staff for the work that they are putting in, going yet again, above and beyond to assist with schemes looking to help people who are fleeing from war in Europe, what an awful thing to have to say. Thank you, everyone. Enjoy the rest of your evening. I hope you found that useful.
Questions from webinar
Ukrainian guests need to register as new patients at their local GP surgery. Details on registering with a doctor, getting medicines and medical support in an emergency is detailed in this government advice - Gov.uk: Guidance Welcome: a guide for Ukrainians arriving in the UK
All the schools are ready for children to join. Schools have support via our Ethnic Minority and Traveller Achievement Service (EMTAS) team to help children to develop their English. The application needs to go through the usual route via the Council website.
Please email H4U@wiltshire.gov.uk to alert us of your guests' arrival.
We aren't directly in this but there the link to relevant webpage https://www.vodafone.co.uk/mobile/everyone-connected/charities-connected a number of mobile services are offering charities free sim cards. Red cross is one of these.
Email H4U@wiltshire.gov.uk with more information and we can provide some advice.
They will all need permission to travel letters.
We at Wiltshire Council will continue to carry out the required checks and the team will be in touch with sponsors to arrange, but these will not delay the issue of the guests' visas. We are working through the accommodation checks as quickly as possible.
The refugee inbox is not just Ukraine queries and is extremely busy.
H4U@wiltshire.gov.uk has been recently built so hosts and guests can get in touch with us around casework queries, payment queries, notification of arrivals and voucher queries. Please use this email for these queries.
We are now using email@example.com primarily to manage DBS check queries and accommodation checks.
Please only email one inbox, your email will be picked up. These mailboxes are not for urgent or emergency requests. For urgent needs, please see advice below:
My Ukrainian guest needs a dentist urgently what do I do?
You can call NHS Dental Helpline 0333 0063 300 for emergency dental needs. More details on how to find an NHS dentist are available here How to find an NHS dentist - NHS
My guest has a medical emergency what should they do?
They should go to the nearest hospital with an Accident and Emergency department. If it is an extreme emergency you can call 999 or 112 and ask for an ambulance to go to hospital. If they need treatment or advice that is not an emergency, but cannot wait until they can next see their GP, you can obtain advice by calling 111. More information is here Week one guidance for Ukrainians arriving in the UK - GOV.UK
My guest has left unexpectedly and I believe that they have gone missing - what do I do?
If you have real concerns they have gone missing please call the police on 999. Then please email us so we are informed at firstname.lastname@example.org. If they have gone missing but you're unsure if it's urgent please call 101.
I have safeguarding concerns regarding my Ukrainian guests what do I do?
Please contact either Adult or Children's Services on the following number 0300 456 0100. Further details are available through the Wiltshire Council Children Protection - Wiltshire Council (Children) and Safeguarding - Your care Your support Wiltshire (Adults)
Urgent needs due to the placement breaking down, then please call our safeguarding number 0300 456 0100. Further advice is available through the Wiltshire Council Children Protection - Wiltshire Council (Children) and Safeguarding - Your care Your support Wiltshire (Adults)
The government has just provided some key steps for the early days when your guests are in the UK. Please have a look at this information which explains about setting up a bank account, how to claim universal credit and accessing health services. Week one guidance for Ukrainians arriving in the UK - GOV.UK
Once you have found a match and processed the visa applications your details will be uploaded onto a government system called Foundry. We are currently working through all those registered to carry out the necessary checks which include a property suitability check. You don't need to make contact to check if your property has been registered.
The checks which local authorities have been asked to carry out can take place after your guest has arrived, as the Home Office will undertake their own checks prior to the guests' arrival to speed up the process. We at Wiltshire Council will continue to carry out the required checks and the team will be in touch with sponsors to arrange, but these will not delay the issue of the guests' visas. We are working through accommodation checks as quickly as possible.
Any accommodation that is being used to house Ukrainian guests will need to be checked for suitability. We ask sponsors to communicate with us if they are planning for their guests to be staying somewhere else rather than their own home.
Accommodation can be independent from the sponsor's home but a suitability of accommodation check needs to be carried out to ensure the accommodation is safe and suitable. No rent can be charged to the family for using the accommodation and it needs to be available to them for at least six months
We have details on our website on supporting Ukrainian people and their families .
English lessons can be accessed via our Family and Community Learning Service.
Telephone: 01225 770478
Please contact UKVI Contact UK Visas and Immigration for help for support with visas. The local authority are not able to influence when visas are issued and unfortunately we don't have data on how the wait time between visas and permission to travel letters being issued.
We are working to provide a transcript on our web page and we'd encourage people to use Google Translate to provide it in Ukraine or Russian.
This is something that we are looking at implementing.
Once you have been matched to a sponsor your details are published onto the government system which we are able to access and will then use the contact details to arrange a suitable date and time to carry out an accommodation check.
The employer will carry out DBS checks. In addition to DBS checks, Ukrainian guests are likely to need an overseas criminal records check. In Ukraine these are called "Criminal Record Certificates" and can be obtained from the Ukrainian consulate: Criminal Records Certificate from Ukraine
The checks which local authorities have been asked to carry out can take place after your guest has arrived, as the Home Office will undertake their own checks prior to the guests' arrival to speed up the process. We at Wiltshire Council will continue to carry out the required checks and the team will be in touch with sponsors to arrange, but these will not delay the issue of the guests' visas. We are working through the accommodation checks as quickly as possible.
You don't need to request an accommodation check as once you have been linked with a family your information will be made available on the government website and we will make contact with you to arrange a suitability check. There is only the ability to have one lead sponsor per Ukrainian group. Any accommodation that is being used to house Ukrainian guests will need to be checked for suitability. We ask sponsors to communicate with us if they are planning for their guests to be staying somewhere else rather than their own home.
Some bus companies have offered this. Currently we are aware of REDs operating in the South offering discounted transport. We are looking into other bus companies to establish if any other companies are offering similar.
Sponsors need to inform us of guest arrival.
Council tax rates are not affected by this programme.
There are community hubs being set up across Wiltshire. More details are available here Key information links - Wiltshire Council.
This would need to be carried out by their employer.
It is likely that qualifications will need to be converted. UK ENIC is a UK National Information Centre for the recognition and evaluation of international qualifications and skills Home Page (enic.org.uk). This does not need to be done by the council.
It depends how you have offered to volunteer in this manner. If it is via a community group, they will have their own requirements. If it is done as an independent arrangement, it would need to be managed independently. Wiltshire Council is not currently providing a volunteer scheme of this nature.
We have regular catch ups with partners across the South West including from health and other agencies as well as our neighbouring local authorities.
If the lessons are via Wiltshire College tutors will be able to advise.
Wiltshire Council has not needed to relocate a family due to a village being too isolating.
Currently sponsors and guests need to find each other and match themselves externally. There is no single route to matching, and both the sponsor and guest could use a number of channels to find a match. They could for example already have a relationship in place with a friend in the UK/Ukraine, they could be friends of friends, or could find a sponsor or guest through a Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO), charity, or other channel.
There will soon be a mechanism for the local authority to potentially match you with Ukrainian guests who require a new sponsor via rematching. This isn't available right now but will go live in the next couple of weeks.
Currently the government scheme which provides the £200 emergency payment is for those arriving on the Homes for Ukraine scheme.
We are sharing information on community hubs which are being set up across the county and you can find the information on Key information links - Wiltshire Council, which may be a good place to start. Information is added to this regularly.
Also the Wiltshire Together platform is collating information on community events for Ukraine guests and hosts so it would be useful to share any details with them too. Wiltshire Together
We usually only accept school applications from a person who has parental responsibility for the child. However, in this instance we are happy to accept application forms submitted by sponsors on their behalf. Once we receive the application we will contact you by email if we require any further information. Guidance to how to apply for a school places can be found in the Welcome pack for Ukrainian refugees.
For information on local schools please visit Forms, guides and policy documents which has a map showing schools and also a downloadable guide for each area of Wiltshire which lists all our schools.
Schools in Wiltshire have lots of experience in supporting children who are at an early stage of learning English - there are already over a hundred different first languages spoken by children attending our schools and thousands of multilingual children. Children whose first language is not English are one of the most successful groups in schools in England and in Wiltshire they do particularly well. Schools will expect children to join mainstream lessons more or less immediately on admission, but will use supportive strategies that will ensure that, while things may be a little confusing at first, children will soon settle in and start to develop their English.
There's also support and advice from Wiltshire Council and from our Academy Trusts that schools can draw on if they need a little extra help making provision for a child without much English (yet).
Families can help at home by learning a bit of English together, but also by encouraging children to continue to use their first language - we know that children who are confident and fluent in their first language acquire English more quickly at school. If you can say something in one language, it's easier to learn it in another.
Sponsors and guests will find each other and match themselves externally. There is no single route to matching, and both the sponsor and guest could use a number of channels to find a match. They could for example already have a relationship in place with a friend in the UK/Ukraine, they could be friends of friends, or could find a sponsor or guest through a Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO), charity, or other channel.
Applications are normally processed in date order from when your documents were uploaded, or after your appointment at a visa application centre. We are working seven days a week, but it will take some time before we can issue decisions to everyone who has applied.
We know that some applicants have been waiting for nearly three weeks for their application to be processed. We are working to resolve this and speed up the processing of applications.
Some children aged two may qualify for Early Years Entitlement, which means there will be no cost to the parent. This is for 15 hours per week for 38 term weeks per year. Childcare Choices.
Please apply via the council: Guidance to how to apply for a school places can be found in the Welcome pack for Ukrainian refugees.
For information on local schools please visit Forms, guides and policy documents which has a map showing schools and also a downloadable guide for each area of Wiltshire which lists all our schools.
Thank you for these suggestions however the system we use is a DLUHC owned platform. It is not owned by Wiltshire Council and cannot be adapted by Wiltshire Council for use on other schemes.
Ukrainian guests are likely to need an overseas criminal records check. In Ukraine these are called "Criminal Record Certificates" and can be obtained from the Ukrainian consulate: Criminal Records Certificate from Ukraine. Education settings would need to ensure they are compliant with the statutory safeguarding guidance for schools Keeping children safe in education - GOV.UK. They can get advice on what they need to do from their local authority safeguarding advisor.
The process is that they should contact the school in the first instance and the school should be able to offer them a place. They should place the child in Y10 or Y12 if they are a Y11. They can then access support from the Post 16 Participation and Skills Team with a referral form to be posted on www.workwiltshire.co.uk later this week. This will enable the child to make an informed choice about their next steps and the range of provision available post 16. We are advising schools that they may want to develop an initial assessment to check suitability for 6th form in September.
For English support we have the following offer from Wiltshire College:
Courses are available for 16-19 year old students who have English as a second language. Learners will improve their general knowledge of the English Language and work on improving their reading, writing, speaking and listening skills.
Wiltshire College is happy to welcome any Ukrainian refugees (either adult or 16-18 year olds) onto their ESOL Summer School Programme which is running from Monday 20 June to Thursday 14 July. These courses will have an 'Employability Skills' focus for the Entry level classes and a 'Life in the UK / Citizenship' focus for the Level 1 and 2 classes.
Year 11 learners will be very welcome to apply to join the specialist 'ESOL Full-Time Study Programme' course, which is a 4 day a week course that includes ESOL, Maths, Citizenship and IT class within its programme of learning.
We will be promoting this offer very soon.
According to the govt website you can use your Ukrainian driving licence for the first 12 months after you arrive. Then you will need to exchange it for a British licence. More details here - Move to the UK if you're coming from the Ukraine - GOV.UK
We have recently been made aware that some bus operators may be offering free or reduced travel tickets for our Ukrainian guests and we will share the detail and processes when we have confirmed them in the sponsor newsletter and on our website.
The government requires local councils to carry out accommodation and safety and welfare checks and we are making these a priority. Our teams are working hard to ensure we continue these necessary checks but we do ask for patience as we work through this important work with the high numbers involved.
We currently don't have a volunteer co-ordination scheme however we have a number of community hubs which are being set up across Wiltshire to provide help to Ukraine guests and we would encourage people to get in touch with them directly. Information on hubs we are aware of is available on our website. Key information links - Wiltshire Council
This would need to be an independent arrangement. If hosts wish to jointly support a Ukraine family that is fine but they need to identify who would be the main host, which would have to be where the family are sleeping. This is because they have to pass the accommodation and safeguarding checks. If it was a joint support arrangement, the host would need to inform us as the other sponsor family would need safeguarding checks also. The main host would receive the £350 thank you payment and it would have to be divided independently (there is only one payment per sponsor family regardless of number of hosts).
The local authority will play a role in rematching of families where this is absolutely necessary but there isn't a role for local authorities in initial matching.
Once your guest has arrived under the Homes for Ukraine scheme you need to contact us to let us know. Your guest will be given an electronic voucher code worth £200. These vouchers can be sent to an email address and are redeemable anywhere where there is a 'Paypoint' point. There are a number of Paypoint points across Wiltshire and full details will be provided to you.
Yes. We have sufficient spaces across our schools and we will work closely with families so they apply for places. Welcoming Ukrainian children and young people into our schools will not adversely impact school places for Wiltshire children.
All Ukraine nationals have the right to work. The government welcome pack for Ukraine refugees has general information on how they can prepare for work. The government website also has information on how employers can provide work for Ukrainian guests. Offer work to people who have come to the UK from the Ukraine - GOV.UK
You can email H4U@wiltshire.gov.uk with information on the breakdown and the current situation. We will respond and first try and look to offer advice and support to try and resolve any issues but if all else fails we will make efforts to organise another placement but be aware the team is very busy and this will not be able to happen immediately. If you feel there are urgent needs due to the placement breaking down, then please call our safeguarding number 0300 456 0100. There is also advice available on Child protection - Wiltshire Council Advice and Contact (adults) Safeguarding - Your care Your support Wiltshire
The government has introduced new guidance on this which we are looking to implement. Obviously we have to be mindful of safeguarding and carrying out the necessary checks on a new placement. If informal rematching takes place please let us know at H4U@wiltshire.gov.uk.
No. Earlier this year we pledged to provide 20 Afghan families with homes in Wiltshire and our resettlement team continues to work tirelessly to achieve this. Alongside partners we're supporting a number of refugees who are currently in the bridging hotel in Wiltshire. We also have a number of families already settled in Wiltshire and we hope to have more settling into the county in longer term accommodation soon.
The council supports the voluntary and community sector and we meet regularly with them however we recognise this is really important to be carried out through local organisations. The Wiltshire Together website has a host of information and is a good site to visit for information.