Scots volunteers taking in Ukrainian refugees to be offered home improvements if safety inspections fail

Volunteers taking in Ukrainian refugees will be offered free home improvements if they fail a new safety inspection.

An army of council housing officers are being sent out to check if houses have interlinked smoke alarms, heat detectors and even thermal insulation before it is passed fit for a family fleeing war.

The Scottish Government guidance has also told volunteers they will be expected to provide homes for a minimum of six months which will see them paid £350 every month as a “thank you”.

Big-hearted volunteers have also been told to make sure refugees have food, toiletries and access to mobile phones and the internet and be prepared for full disclosure checks. But the speed of moving refugees to the UK has been criticized as too slow.

Human Rights campaigner and chief executive of Positive Action in Housing, Robina Qureshi

Robina Qureshi, of refugee charity Positive Action in Housing, said: “It’s good that checks are being done on homes. We don’t want people being put at risk in unsafe homes.

“What is slowing everything down is the process for approving visas.

“It is taking so long that the 600 Ukrainians we are in touch with, we are now advising them to go to Ireland instead of Scotland due to the delays.”

Inspection interlinked alarms may be fitted for free
Inspection interlinked alarms may be fitted for free

Councils will be paid £10,500 from the UK Government for every refugee that comes under their care.

The cash should be used to provide education, healthcare and benefits for the asylum seekers.

And local authorities have been told to dip into the fund if volunteer homes don’t come up to scratch and “consider using some of the Scottish Government funding to address the outstanding issue, for example, if a property does not have interlinked smoke and heat alarms”.

Gary Christie of the Scottish Refugee Council
Gary Gray

But volunteer families have warned the bureaucracy of home visits will further slow down the process.

Gary Gray, who has set up Scothosts website, which is aiming to match up Ukrainians with 750 Scottish volunteer families, said: “We started two weeks ago with 11 families coming together on social media.

“Now, we have 750 volunteer homes and our own website.

“But so far only one of the families have had Ukrainian family move in.

“These sort of checks are going to slow down things further.”

Gary Christie, of the Scottish Refugee Council said: “The welcome Scotland is able to show people from Ukraine in the long run is dependent on the success of the UK Government’s Homes for Ukraine scheme.

“The public have shown a tremendous display of generosity and solidarity in making thousands of offers of accommodation for people fleeing the conflict in Ukraine.

“The UK Government has demonstrated a very slow and piecemeal response.

“It’s deeply regrettable that we’re now seeing several reports of issues around the safeguarding and practicalities of the Homes for Ukraine scheme.”

The Homes for Ukraine scheme is run by the UK Government. Since it launched on March 14, 4700 visas have been issued in the UK. But that works out as less than 15 per cent of applicants.

Another 24,000 visas have been issued to Ukrainians with families in the UK under a separate scheme. But in Scotland a total of just 210 visas have been issued.

The Scottish Government has declared itself a super-sponsor, so up to 3000 refugees can come here without being matched up with volunteers as is the case in the rest of the UK.

They are expected to go into government or local authority care before being matched to a family. But they still need to wait for a visa to come to the UK in the first place, which the Scottish Government has said is the reason only 30 Ukranians have so far been housed in Scotland via the scheme.

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “Scotland stands ready to extend a ‘warm Scots welcome’ to displaced Ukrainians, but in order for this to happen people need visas.

“That’s why we have pressed directly with UK ministers, in person and in writing, on the need to speed up the processing of applications.”

A UK Government spokesman said: “We are moving as quickly as possible to ensure that those fleeing Ukraine can find safety in the UK.”

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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