Conservative led Wiltshire Council is putting in additional staffing to provide checks and support the growing number of Ukrainian refugees who are due to settle in Wiltshire under the government's Homes for Ukraine scheme.
Warm hearted residents from 218 households so far have offered safe homes for people fleeing the war torn country.
The government has given local authorities a key role in helping refugees settle. Wiltshire Council is adding to its team of people which is providing support including accommodation and welfare and suitability checks. The council is putting in place caseworkers and working on payment mechanisms for sponsors and emergency support for new arrivals. Officers are working alongside partners to provide sufficient school places, as well as working closely with the NHS, Department for Work and Pensions and town and parish councils.
The government is separately issuing the visas for Ukrainian refugees. The latest government advice is the checks which local authorities have been asked to carry out can wait until the guest has arrived as the Home Office will undertake their own checks prior to the guests' arrival to speed up the process. Wiltshire Council will continue to carry out the required checks and the team will be in touch with sponsors to arrange, but these should not delay the issue of the guest's visas.
So far 33 school applications have been received as schools work together with the council to continue education for young refugees. There will also be support for early years and post-16 young people when they arrive. Voluntary groups and charities, are helping to co-ordinate responses and developing ways to ensure when families arrive they have the support they need and feel truly welcome.
This week more than £11,000 was raised by school children across the county after the Wiltshire Youth Council invited schools to join in a non-uniform day on Friday 1 April. The council encouraged pupils to wear blue and yellow for a minimum of £1 to raise funds for the Disasters Emergency Committee's Ukraine Appeal.
Wiltshire Youth Councillor Youssef Elmorsy said
What a great initiative taken up by Wiltshire Schools, that truly reflects their selflessness in dire times. Looking beyond the student's own needs and focussing on others struggles. A great reflection of Wiltshire.
Alongside partners, the council has produced a welcome pack for refugees with information on local services including libraries, leisure centres, applying for a school place and health information. The pack is available on the council webpage Support for Ukraine - Wiltshire Council The advice provides local information to sit alongside the government information for refugees Welcome: a guide for Ukrainians arriving in the UK.
The Support for Ukraine - Wiltshire Council has general information on providing support as well as frequently asked questions for those involved in supporting the refugees and for people who want to find out more.
The government has also produced a pack for sponsors.
Conservative Cllr Richard Clewer, Leader of Wiltshire Council has thanked Wiltshire residents for their response to welcoming refugees in a short video.
He has also produced a welcome video to Ukrainian people coming to Wiltshire assuring them of a warm welcome once they arrive.
Cllr Clewer said:
Once again Wiltshire residents have responded with generosity and kindness to people fleeing their homes in Ukraine. Our latest figures show we have 584 people matched to 218 households in Wiltshire - a remarkable figure. We know that each and every one of those individuals coming to Wiltshire will be assured of a warm welcome.
The government has given local authorities a key role in supporting refugees and this includes accommodation and welfare and suitability checks as well as providing other support around payments and emergency help. We are adding to our dedicated team to help meet this high demand and we thank all our sponsors for their patience. We look forward to continuing to work with them and to acknowledge the surge of voluntary support which is evident across the county so Ukrainian refugees can make Wiltshire their home, recognising how difficult and heart breaking this situation is for them.
The government's Homes for Ukraine scheme offers a route to those who want to come to the UK and who have someone willing to provide them with a home. Individuals, charities, community groups and businesses can volunteer accommodation. Sponsors can provide accommodation for as long as they are able and for a minimum expectation of six months. Those arriving need to meet standard security checks. Sponsors and all adults in the sponsoring households will also be subject to security checks and may also be subject to safeguarding checks. People interested can record their interest online to receive updates and more information on how to apply.