An official “matching service” has been launched with government support to link refugees with UK hosts under the Homes for Ukraine scheme.
Around 200,000 people in the UK who registered their interest in hosting Ukrainian refugees through a government website after it launched two weeks ago will now be asked to sign up on a separate platform in order to be considered for a “match”.
The service will be managed by Reset Communities and Refugees, a charity leading UK community refugee sponsorship since 2018, which will receive government funding. The charity has been given an initial grant of £300,000 to help design the matching process.
It will bring together sponsors and refugees and assess their eligibility and suitability for the scheme, as well as providing training and advice to the sponsors and community groups.
Refugees minister Lord Harrington, who was appointed by Boris Johnson earlier this month to facilitate safe and speedy passage of vulnerable Ukrainian evacuees, said: “I am delighted and grateful that Reset are working with us to bring more people safely to the UK.”
The Independent is also raising money for the people of Ukraine – if you would like to donate then please click here for our GoFundMe page.
The Homes for Ukraine scheme, which opened on 18 March, enables Ukrainians with no family links to come to the UK and live in homes offered by members of the public or charities and organisations. Individuals offering their homes are offered a monthly payment of £350 and local councils receive £10,500 per refugee in the first year.
The scheme has attracted some criticism after minister for Leveling Up Michael Gove said he hoped individuals and community groups would be able to match with refugees using social media.
Ukrainian refugees subsequently started to “advertise” themselves on social media in a bid to find hosts in the UK, with a swathe of unregulated Facebook pages being set up for this purpose, prompting concerns that the program could expose vulnerable people to abuse.
Prime minster Boris Johnson admitted this week that the scheme could place people at risk of abuse, and indicated that the National Crime Agency (NCA) may need to be involved to prevent this from happening.
Reset said the new service would facilitate a “rigorous” matching system, with trained caseworkers and volunteers, led by safeguarding experts, assessing the sponsors’ intent, suitability, and availability while checking that the accommodation they are offering is appropriate.
The charity set up the matching website on 15 March, but will now begin the formal matching process. The website has so far seen more than 7,000 refugees register, along with more than 8,000 UK households offering places for more than 20,000 refugees.
Sponsors will also need to complete an online mandatory training program before the matching process begins.
The matching team will also carry out assessments of refugees to understand their personal circumstances and if they have particular ties to a place.
Once the match has been made, the sponsors and refugees will need to submit a visa application to the Home Office, and local authorities will be responsible for the formal vetting process.
Kate Brown, chief executive of Reset, described the launch of the matching service as “an extraordinary moment for the refugee welcome movement in the UK”.
“With 200,000 people signed up to offer their homes under the Homes for Ukraine scheme, and hundreds of thousands more offering support, we are in a position to help more refugees than ever before,” she said.
“We must make sure that there are fair and rigorous systems in place to support the refugees and sponsors as they embark on this programme.”
The Independent has a proud history of campaigning for the rights of the most vulnerable, and we first ran our Refugees Welcome campaign during the war in Syria in 2015. Now, as we renew our campaign and launch this petition in the wake of the unfolding Ukrainian crisis, we are calling on the government to go further and faster to ensure help is delivered. To find out more about our Refugees Welcome campaign, click here.