Multiple refugee households face homelessness in Oldham

Multiple Ukrainian refugee households have faced homelessness in Oldham, new figures show, as numbers jump across the country.

Multiple Ukrainian refugee households have faced homelessness in Oldham, new figures show, as numbers jump across the country.

Since Russia's invasion of Ukraine in March, refugees from the war have been invited to stay in the UK under the Ukrainian Sponsorship and Family schemes.

The former sets up refugees with hosts in the UK for an initial six months, who receive support from their local council and a stipend of £350.

However, as the cost-of-living crisis starts to bite and the initial hosting period comes to an end, it is feared that many more refugees could become homeless nationally.

New figures from the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities show across both schemes, three refugee households had been made homeless or put at risk of homelessness in Oldham as of September 23.

Nationally, the number of refugee households with homelessness duties surged 22% over the same period, from 1,565 to 1,915.

Of those, 1,335 households – 70% – had dependent children.

The figures also show that across the country, homelessness has been avoided in 665 of these cases, up from 550 the month before.

Figures are suppressed for areas with fewer than five homeless refugee households, so households in Oldham may have found accommodation after receiving a homelessness duty.

Hosts sign on for an initial six months, and while the Government says it will continue to provide support for an additional six months, several charities have said they are worried people may choose not to, given the rising costs of food and fuel.

Stan Benes, a trustee for Opora, a charity which helps Ukrainians settling in the UK, said that Government support has "too often fallen short", and that charities and other organisations have been left to fill in the gaps.

He said the cost-of-living crisis was a "factor", but that the lead reason for hosting arrangements breaking down was "the health of the relationship between guests and hosts", adding that many hosts did not have sufficient guidance or support when signing up to the scheme.

Opora is also concerned that there are many more homeless refugees than the figures suggest – almost 30% of councils did not provide data for September.

The DLUHC said it has been in contact with councils that have repeatedly not submitted data on homelessness, and is currently looking into how it can increase response rates.

Separate DLUHC figures show 81 Ukrainian refugee households due in Oldham – from 99 successful applications – had arrived in the UK by October 4 under the sponsorship scheme.

This was up from 77 arrivals on September 6, when 96 visas had been issued.

In the month to October 4, 96,800 refugees had arrived in the UK, with 136,600 visas approved under the scheme.

A spokesperson for DLUHC said: “We are grateful to the British public for opening up their communities to the people of Ukraine and the generosity they have shown.

“The majority of sponsors want to continue hosting for longer than six months. Where guests do move on they have a number of options, including to enter private rental or find a new host to sponsor them."

"Councils have a duty to ensure families are not left without a roof over their heads,” they added.