Analysis by children’s charity Barnardo’s, Labour and the Liberal Democrats say that, based on feedback from refugee sponsors, between 15,000 and 21,000 Ukrainians could be homeless by this winter, rising to more than 50,000 by the middle of next year.
People hosting refugees under the Home for Ukraine scheme were asked to take on guests for an initial six month period. However, many seem likely to end their arrangement after that time, potentially leaving those fleeing the Russian invasion with nowhere to live.
The rising cost of living has been cited as a major block to continuing hosting arrangements, with householders currently receiving £350 a month to help with expenses. However, the UK Government, which is responsible for the scheme, has not yet offered any extra help for continuing arrangements. It said it was "reviewing” the situation.
Last week, refugees minister Lord Harrington said monthly payments to UK hosts should double after six months to £700 a month to offset cost of living concerns. But Harrington has no authority to implement the rise, and so far the Treasury has refused.
The Scottish Government’s Super Sponsor scheme, which allowed refugees to arrive without having a named sponsor, was suspended amid high demand in June. Many are living in temporary accommodation in hotels and a cruise ship docked in Edinburgh.
In July, the government sent out a questionnaire to hosts asking them about their experiences of the scheme in a bid to analyse how many people would be likely to continue to host refugees after the initial six month period comes to an end.
One question even asked hosts if they would consider moving to a long-term paid landlord relationship with their guests.
Robina Qureshi, chief executive of Glasgow-based Positive Action in Housing, said she was worried about “impending homelessness on a mass scale” when the first six-month period ends.
Kitty Hamilton of Vigil for Visas said increased support should be offered for three years – the length of visas given to Ukrainian refugees.
“The government’s commitment was for three years, not six months, so there needs to be a longer-term game plan that doesn’t squander the goodwill of so many. The scheme was offered for an initial six months – the implication was to give the government a chance to make more substantial plans and for the invasion to end. But nothing has happened.”
Government data reveals that since the war began in February, 1,335 Ukrainian households – including 945 families with children – have already registered as homeless.
A government spokesperson said: “Councils have a duty to ensure families are not left without a roof over their head. We’ve provided them with £10,500 per person to cover costs, with access to a rematching service to find a new sponsor in the rare case of a sponsorship breakdown. We have already acted to make sure the £350 thank-you payments are exempt from tax, and continue to monitor and review the support provided.”
They added that they were working closely with councils to ensure Ukrainians have access to suitable housing if they decide to move on.