Ukraine crisis

Ukraine field.jpg

We have had a wonderfully generous response to our call for members to tell us if they are willing to host Ukrainian refugees coming to the UK. Over 350 people have offered to help.

The CLA is committed to supporting members who are thinking of doing this.

You can access information here about government schemes and advice on frequently asked questions and areas to consider if you wish to host Ukrainian guests. It will be updated regularly as this is available

The aim is to offer a one-stop shop for members to access information. Some of the information is taken directly from government and other online sources. The CLA will also provide bespoke advice for members as more detail emerges and members raise questions. Where necessary, we are seeking answers directly from government.

The CLA is also exploring how it might be able to help members to be matched with guests who would welcome being hosted in rural areas, for example through partnership with other organisations or businesses. We are also looking at whether there are other roles we could undertake that would facilitate members being able to proceed with hosting. The UK Government has promised information in due course on how businesses and organisations could play a part.

It is difficult to predict how quickly the demand to come to the UK may grow. It may take some weeks for awareness of the UK offer to become known and displaced Ukrainians may not immediately be keen to move a long distance from home.

The CLA’s advice is that members will not miss the opportunity to host Ukrainian guests by waiting for more information before registering their interest in hosting. We understand that there is no cut-off deadline planned at present.

The UK Government Scheme “Homes for Ukraine”

This UK-wide scheme offers a route to those who want to come to the UK who have someone here willing to provide them with a home. It will enable individuals, charities, community groups and businesses to volunteer accommodation and provide a route to safety for Ukrainians, and their immediate family members, forced to escape their homeland.

Sponsors should provide accommodation for as long as they are able, but government has a minimum expectation of six months.

Someone is eligible for the scheme if they are a Ukrainian national or the immediate family member of a Ukrainian national, and were resident in Ukraine prior to 1 January 2022.

The UK Government will welcome as many arrivals as possible, based on the number of sponsors.

People arriving under this scheme will be able to:

  • Live and work in the UK for up to three years
  • Access healthcare, benefits, employment support, education, and English language tuition
How the scheme will work

This is based on information from government and third sector organisations who support refugees. More detail is expected to be provided in due course.

The key principle of the scheme is that a named individual and immediate family members must be matched with a named sponsor.

The scheme is open from Friday 18 March for visa applications from Ukrainians and immediate family members who already have named people willing to sponsor them.

However, the vast majority of potential hosts will not know anyone in Ukraine. At this stage the UK Government advice to people in this position is to register your interest so that you receive updates and more information when available.

You can register via the UK Government website.

There is currently no cut-off point for registering.

How to be matched with refugees seeking sponsorship

The community sponsorship charity Reset has developed an online matching system and we understand that the government will rely on this route for those wishing to sponsor to match safely and appropriately with refugees seeking sponsors.

Reset is now accepting registrations from sponsors as well as refugees seeking sponsorship. You can register your offer here.

Reset say that potential sponsors should ensure they are also registered via the UK Government website.

Role of sponsors

Latest government guidance to councils says that sponsors are required to:

  • Provide suitable accommodation for a minimum of six months.
  • Stay in regular contact with their guest prior to their arrival to help organise and coordinate their arrival in the UK, meet them on arrival, and facilitate transfer to their accommodation.
  • Signpost the guest to public services and assist them with tasks such as registering with a local GP surgery.
Suitable accommodation

The government scheme refers to residential spare rooms and separate self-contained accommodation that is unoccupied.

The scheme information also mentions that local councils will wish to check that accommodation is suitable in the circumstances. There is no definitive information yet about how and when this will be done.

Security and safeguarding

The government scheme says that both sponsors and guests will be subject to security checks and those in host households may also be subject to safeguarding checks.

It is expected that children will make up the majority of refugees, with their mothers.

Government guidance to councils says that sponsors and all adults in sponsors’ households will be subject to initial Police National Computer (PNC), criminal records and Warnings Index checks by the Home Office. Councils will be required to undertake basic DBS (Disclosure and Barring Service) checks for all adults in the sponsor household; and in cases where the incoming arrivals include children and/or vulnerable adults, an enhanced DBS with barred lists check will be required promptly on all adults in the sponsor household.

Payment and other costs

You should not charge rent for the accommodation. The UK Government will offer an optional ‘thank you’ payment of £350 per month to people who can accommodate one or more household.

The thank you payment is limited to one payment per residential address. You will continue to receive payments for as long as you sponsor somebody for up to 12 months. This payment will be made in arrears. It will be administered by local councils.

Guests will be able to apply for benefits immediately and take up employment.

Hosts are not expected to provide meals or cover the cost of food and living expenses (although anyone wishing to offer this may do so).

Some refugee charities have said that hosts may be encouraged or expected to help the people they sponsor to reach the UK by helping with travel arrangements and costs. This has not been clarified by government yet.

From Sunday 20 March, guests arriving in the country will be eligible for a single onward journey via national rail, bus, light rail, and coach. This will be free of charge to anywhere in England, Scotland and Wales. Further information is available here.

Role of councils

The government has issued initial guidance to councils that indicates they will be expected to provide support in the following areas:

  • Safeguarding and accommodation checks
  • Interim subsistence payments to guests
  • Providing school places
  • Referrals to public health and social care services
  • Access to work and benefits services
  • Community integration support
  • Payments to sponsors.
Rural hosting and community support

Although some refugee organisations only place guests in cities and large towns, we understand that rural accommodation offers will be welcome and other refugee organisations have good experiences of people being made very welcome in smaller communities and settling in well.

Strong emphasis is placed by refugee charities on how your wider community has a key role to play in making guests feel at home and in providing volunteer support.

The advice is to think carefully about how you and your rural community can provide for the needs of different types of guests you may host (e.g. social, healthcare, educational, transport, employment opportunities) and to be upfront about what you can offer when registering your interest in hosting.

Where possible, local clusters of hosts have obvious advantages for the guests in reducing feelings of dislocation and isolation. One way the CLA can help will be by putting members in touch with others hosting locally.

How hosting will work in Wales

The Welsh Government has confirmed its intention to become a “super-sponsor” for the Homes for Ukraine scheme. It says it is working with the UK government to finalise details to enable the first matches to be made under this scheme and also working very closely with Wales’ councils and third sector organisations to ensure the right support is available for people from Ukraine arriving in Wales. This includes planning welcome centres and ensuring access to all the wrap-around services people arriving from a war zone may need.

Other considerations

The following advice is taken from a number of organisations who work with refugees and may be helpful in planning for how you would welcome Ukrainian guests.

Do ensure you have talked through with your family what the implications will be and how you can make the experience a success. All of the refugee organisations say that hosting refugee guests can be an enriching and transformative experience; the benefit is not all on the side of the guests.

Refugees are by definition vulnerable and those fleeing from the war in Ukraine are likely to be traumatised and to have left family members behind. They have been transplanted unwillingly to an alien culture. They will almost certainly have different customs and ways of doing things to yourselves.

Good advice is to try to put yourself in their shoes, particularly in the early stages, and be patient about how quickly guests adjust. Bear in mind the importance of allowing guests to maintain personal agency and make decisions, large and small, for themselves.

With vulnerable guests, hosts are advised to be very aware of the power differential, and consider how this might affect their relationship with the guest. Particular care should be taken about developing any relationship beyond that of host and guest.

This also extends to business relationships or any financial agreements or even very intense friendships. A host might be making a very genuine offer of help or friendship but the guest may well feel very powerless and obliged to agree as a result.

This may also extend to offers of employment. The Homes for Ukraine scheme is about providing a home for people. While guests may wish to seek employment, this is their decision. It will be essential not to allow any implication that taking employment is a condition of accommodation being provided.

Other useful sources of information

You may wish to explore the very helpful information available via these other organisations:

The Sanctuary Foundation has been set up specifically in response to the Ukrainian emergency to work with refugee charities, government and other organisations: www.sanctuaryfoundation.org.uk

Reset Communities and Refugees specializes in community sponsorship of refugees: resetuk.org

The Red Cross provides information and services for refugees settling in the UK: www.redcross.org.uk

Frequently asked questions

We have aimed not to duplicate where adequate information is already provided by the UK government. The answers to government FAQs can be found here.

Once the application and visa has been processed an official permission letter should be received from UK Visas and Immigration confirming the travel to the UK. At Border Control this letter should be shown and Border Force Officers should stamp the passports with a permission to enter the UK valid for six months with no restrictions on taking employment or recourse to public funds. This is Leave Outside the Rules (LOTR) and is a Code 1A or Amended Code 1 endorsement.

We have been passed some anecdotal information that this is not happening automatically at Border Control and if they don’t have the stamp it will prevent incoming refugees from being able to claim benefits and work (if they wish). We want to highlight this to our hosts to ensure that they pass it onto people before they travel to ensure that it is asked for at Border Control.

Further advice can be found on the Gov.uk website information is here

General

1. What support will I get from my local authority? Will this include mental health and wellbeing support?

We believe the support from local authorities will vary widely depending both on policy and available funding. Members considering housing refugees are advised to speak to their local authority at an early stage, although they would be wise to note that LAs to date have had virtually no formal guidance from central government on their role in the Homes for Ukraine scheme. Those arriving on the Homes for Ukraine sponsorship scheme will be entitled to free schooling and healthcare, and in some cases may be eligible for welfare payments. They are also entitled to a £200 interim payment to help with subsistence costs, which will be provided by the local council.

2. The general guide for Ukrainians arriving in the UK is available in Ukrainian and English here:

More information

3. Do I need to be DBS checked? If so, how do I do it and is it intrusive?

DBS checks will be needed and are not especially intrusive. More detail is available in the government FAQs (link above). An enhanced check will be needed where refugees under the age of 18 are being housed.

4. Will refugees have undergone security checks in advance and if so, by whom?

Refugees are expected to be checked as part of the visa system.

5. Who will have the job of matching refugees to those offering accommodation?

This is currently being done by a wide group of charitable suppliers and individuals with strong Ukraine connections. Central government at present has no role at the moment. The CLA will pass on any enquiries we receive about finding hosts eg. from members with contacts in Ukraine.

6. What do refugees need to open a bank account?

Banks typically ask applicants for an address which can be the host’s, a Ukrainian passport or national identity card and documentation showing the immigration status such as a biometric residence permit (BRP). Refugees on a visa should collect this on arrival: this serves as proof of their right to work and rent property. While guests may apply online, most lenders suggest coming to branches, if necessary with their host, especially where documentation is not available. Fintechs including Revolut and Monzo offer to set up accounts without a visit and require a phone number, a physical address in the UK and a Ukrainian passport or identity card.

7. How do refugees get a new phone contract on arrival in the UK

Currently Vodafone and Three have offered free Sim cards to refugees arriving in the UK while other operators are not charging existing customers for calls and texts between Ukraine and the UK. If someone from Ukraine applies for a phone contract with a UK provider, they will need to pass a credit check and have a credit or debit card registered at the address they are applying from, proof of identity and proof of address. The simplest option, regardless of the provider, would be a pay-as-you-go Sim card that can be paused or cancelled at any time.

8. Will refugees be able to use their Ukrainian driving licences to drive or rent vehicles in the UK?

Yes, Ukrainians can drive in the UK for 12 months before they would need to exchange their Ukrainian licence for a UK one. Some rental companies may require Ukrainians to produce an International Driving Permit or a translated version of their Ukrainian license.

9. Can refugees leave the UK temporarily during their stay with a host?

Yes, refugees can make temporary trips abroad and return but are advised not to until their BRP has been issued and collected

Housing

1. What if I provide a separate house for refugees?

Where refugees are given exclusive possession of a property rather than sharing a member’s house there is a draft licence included in the government FAQs above.

2. What are my liabilities in terms of compliance, such as MEES/EPCs, electrical or gas safety, smoke detectors?

Government have confirmed that the accommodation needs to be free from serious health and safety hazards so CLA advice is that you should make sure the home is ‘Fit for Human Habitation’ as required under Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act 2018. Members will need to make sure that there is a working fire alarm, and a carbon monoxide alarm in any room containing a solid fuel burning appliance, a safe heating supply, and have safe and working electrics. It is unlikely that the need for an EPC, and therefore to meet MEES, will be enforced for the time the home is occupied under the sponsorship scheme as a relevant tenancy will most likely not be in place.

3. Who will pay council tax/electricity/gas/oil?

The government has not given any guidance on who is liable for such costs. You may wish to use the £350 payment to cover these costs. The government suggests you may want to draw up an agreement (not a tenancy) with the occupant so that who is responsible for any costs such as council tax is clear at the beginning of the arrangement. Empty or second homes will be entitled to keep a 50% council tax discount if it is used to house Ukrainian refugees.

4. Can I charge for accommodation?

No, you should not charge rent for the occupation. You have the option to receive a monthly payment of £350 for up to 12 months under the sponsorship scheme.

5. How long will I have to accommodate the refugees once they move in?

You must be able to provide accommodation for a period of at least six months in the UK. Should you not want to sponsor your guest after these six months, the government recommends you give your guests at least 2 months’ notice in order to make other suitable arrangements.

6. How do we deal with the creation of a house in multiple occupation (HMO)?

The CLA understands that the government has confirmed that the HMO rules will not apply.

7. I assume the owner will have to bear the cost of additional wear and tear on the property?

The ‘thank you’ payment of £350 is intended to cover the costs of this.

8. Can I accommodate refugees in housing that does not yet meet all the current standards?

The accommodation must be free from serious health and safety hazards and the home should be safe and in a suitable condition for guests. The home should be fit for human habitation as required under the Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act 2018.

9. Is there anything I should take into account where the refugees are sharing one or two spare bedrooms in my own home?

This is probably the simplest situation in that the refugees will have the same legal status as guests

10. The property I want to provide for refugees is subject to a mortgage: do I have to inform the mortgagor?

You should check with your mortgage provider about any requirements they have. We recommend you should let them know.

11. The property that I can offer is fit for human habitation but is unfurnished: is there any help for this?

There are local charities that can supply second-hand and refurbished furniture and appliances for little or no fee to refugees such as Community Sustainability Services in north east England.

12. What happens if the relationship between the host and refugee breaks down?

This presents a particular risk where the host has refugees living in his own home. If they can no longer live under the same roof, the Department for Levelling Up says it “will seek to find a further sponsor through rematching”. It goes on to add that if a suitable new sponsor cannot be found, the Ukrainian family will be entitled to housing support from the local authority.

13. Can the host or refugees claim housing benefit?

Refugees and hosts will not be entitled to claim housing benefit, but if a refugee wants to leave a host family and rent privately or when the sponsorship ends, refugees will be able to rent a property like anyone else and claim housing benefit if needed.

Insurance

1. Do I need to inform my insurers if I take refugees into my own home?

Yes: although the Association of British Insurers have waived this requirement, the CLA advice remains that you should inform your insure.

2. Do I need to inform my insurers if I allow refugees to occupy a property rent free?

As for Q1, our advice is that you should inform your insurer.

3. Are there any other insurance considerations?

Cover of contents and personal belongings often is cover provided for you and your family only, so any 3rd party belongings may not be covered. Make sure your public liability cover extends to 3rd parties on your property.

Tax

1. The government is offering £350 per calendar month to members where they accommodate refugees. How is this treated for tax purposes?

The government has confirmed that this payment will be free of income and corporation tax. As the payments will be treated as non-taxable income, any expenses that could otherwise have been offset against this income will not be allowable as a tax deduction.

2. If you are making your holiday accommodation available to Ukrainian refugees, then will the period they are in occupation count as qualifying days for the purposes of the income tax furnished holiday let (FHL) rules?

The normal statutory rules require holiday let accommodation to be available to let for 210 days and actually let for 105 days in a year and not be a longer term letting over 31 days to be treated as an FHL.

HMRC has advised the CLA that all sponsors are expected to be in the same tax position whether they offer a room in their own home or provide separate accommodation to Ukrainian refugees. As the monthly payments are not subject to tax and any expenses are not deductible (as outlined in question 1 above), this means that the accommodation will not form part of a property business, nor a furnished holiday let during that time. If Members do not let the property for at least 105 days, there are two options (known as elections) that can help to fulfil the required threshold. These are the averaging election (available if you own more than one FHL) and the period of grace election. These are explained in more detail in the HMRC self assessment help sheet HS253.

3. Will householders lose their 25% single person council tax discount where they accommodate refugees?

The Government has confirmed that council tax discounts will not be affected if you sponsor and host a Ukrainian household in your home.

4. If I welcome Ukrainian refugees into my home, will this limit the amount of private residence relief (PPR) available if I subsequently sell or transfer my home by way of a gift?

HMRC have confirmed to the CLA that where somebody shares their home with a Ukrainian refugee, HMRC think it is likely that the Ukrainian refugee will be occupying under a bare licence, as opposed to a tenancy or commercial licence. Consequently, no part of the property will cease to be the owner’s residence as a result of that occupation, so there is no impact on Private Residence Relief. For completeness HMRC drew attention to their Capital Gains Manual.

5. If I welcome Ukrainian refugees into my home which currently qualifies for agricultural property relief (APR) as a farmhouse, will this jeopardise a claim for APR?

HMRC have confirmed to the CLA that where an individual hosts a Ukrainian refugee in their farmhouse there will be no impact on Agriculture Property Relief (APR) provided that the property continues to be occupied for the purposes of agriculture. The farmhouse must still meet the occupation conditions set out at Section 117 IHTA84. Further information on the occupation condition for APR can be found at IHTM24060 onwards.

6. Are refugees entitled to the personal tax allowances available to a British resident, or as an employee must they be placed on an emergency code?

Most people resident in the UK will have the standard personal allowance of £12,570 (it is only less that this if annual income is over £100,000). It is usual practice for emergency PAYE codes to be used until HMRC have updated the employee’s codes. As an employer, you can help any refugees working for you to update their tax codes by sending the necessary details to HMRC.

Planning

1. I have a property subject to an agricultural occupancy condition. Can I offer it for refugee accommodation?

You can offer such a property to house Ukrainian refugees. However its use will contravene the agricultural occupancy condition and could theoretically be the subject of enforcement action. The CLA very much hopes no local authority would pursue this at least for the initial six month term.

2. I have empty glamping pods/caravans. Can I offer these for refugee accommodation?

The government guidance states that the accommodation should be safe and free from health hazards, be heated and give your guests adequate access to bathroom and kitchen facilities. If your glamping pod or caravan can provide these requirements then you may be able to offer these for refugee accommodation. Requiring the occupant(s) to walk across a field to access bathroom and kitchen facilities is unlikely to be considered appropriate.

3. Can I erect a cabin or pod to house refugees?

Unlikely. The cabin or pod would require planning permission as would any concrete pad, pipework, ducting and sewage treatment. The government guidance states that the accommodation should be safe and free from health hazards, be heated and give your guests adequate access to bathroom and kitchen facilities.

Employment

1. Can I ask the refugees to work for me?

According to government guidance, refugees have an immediate right to work for you or somebody else. General employment law will apply, so they must be paid at least the minimum/living wage ranging from £9.50 an hour for those over 23 to £4.81 for apprentices, or the minimum agricultural wage. They will also be entitled to holidays and so on. If you offer accommodation under the Homes for Ukraine, you should ensure there is no implication that working for you is a condition of the accommodation provided. Employers must check that refugees are entitled to work in the UK before employing them: the biometric residence permit (BRP) which refugees collect on arrival serves as proof of their right to work and to rent property. Organisations including Employ Ukraine seek to match refugees with employers before they arrive in the UK. Refugees may also take steps to set themselves up as self-employed while receiving state benefits: details are given in government guidance.

2. What opportunities are there for refugees to work?

It is likely there will be significant work opportunities given the well documented staff shortages in industries including hospitality. Advertisements, word of mouth, various schemes and recruitment agencies may be able to help with this.

3. I am offering a home to a refugee in a rural area and they may need to travel for work: is there any help available for this?

Sometimes regional charities can assist – for example Azure Chartable Enterprises in Newcastle.

4. I am offering a home to a refugee who has very limited English: is there any support should they wish to improve their language skills?

Again, regional charities often can help, such as Action Foundation in the north east of England.

Health

1. How do refugees access healthcare and benefits?

Details of how to claim financial support are on page 12 of the UK government welcome guide (see previous links) to obtain payments you will typically need a bank or credit union account details, an email address and proof of identity. Healthcare is free for all Ukrainian refugees. The UK government recommends registering with a general practitioner (GP) on arrival.

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