Comments from Sarah Olney’s coffee morning

Our Housing Officer, Simone Webster, reports back from another very useful meeting with Sarah Olney MP on Wednesday 30th March.

Sarah gave us the opportunity to outline our work to date and advise of tomorrow’s discussion and recruitment meeting, which she offered to publicise.

After a brief update on the political and military status of the conflict, Sarah fielded comments and questions about refugees.

The Visa application process seems unnecessarily difficult. There is no formal matching process. Sarah and the Council are recommending Reset UK. Nevertheless, 200 Ukrainians have already arrived in Richmond, 109 in Kingston.

The Council is performing accommodation and DBS checks, in some cases once guests have already arrived. The Council was reported to have been very quick to set up the home inspection. Guests receive £200 each on arrival to cover initial subsistence needs until benefits arrive.

Hosts need to let the Council know when their guests arrive, so a council officer can visit to assess their needs. Sarah will investigate what they are offering in terms of formal support, e.g. case workers, hub. She will also look into ways of linking Ukrainians beyond the church groups, parent networks, etc. that are likely to form.

The Council and Sarah’s office are both keeping a list of arrivals; Sarah is happy to be contacted if hosts/guests want to be put in touch with others. Her assistant will circulate a list of email addresses for hosts at today’s meeting who wish to be connected.

Primary schooling provision is available, but secondary provision is more of an issue. The Council are working on it. LEAH was mentioned as a source of English tuition, and Richmond Furniture Scheme.

Rather than goods, please donate money to the Disasters and Emergency Committee, who know what is most useful in terms of goods, alleviating cost of supporting refugees in Poland, etc.

If hosts are experiencing insurance premium increases, contact Sarah’s office and she will contact the insurer concerned. If host/guest relationships break down, the Council will have a duty of care to accommodate the family. We noted that they could draw on Sarah’s database to find alternative hosts. We noted the importance of guests finding work if they are to find private-let accommodation after the six months’ home stay.

Constructive ideas that came up:

  • Having one host family shadow another for support, and to pre-empt issues before they become a crisis.
  • Issuing free Transport for London Oyster cards.
  • Bicycle bank.

We and another participant stressed the need not to forget 11,500 Afghans yet to be resettled. Sarah reiterated that the needs of the two schemes are different in that Afghans need self-contained homes for permanent resettlement, whereas we hope that Ukrainians need temporary sanctuary.

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