Ukrainian refugee crisis and the role of housing associations
By Eileen McMullan, SFHA Policy Lead.
The war in Ukraine is leading to the biggest refugee crisis that Europe has seen since the second world war. Refugee policy sits outside the powers of the Scottish Government, but, yesterday, the First Minister responded to the announcement by the UK Government on support for Ukrainian refugees, ‘Homes for Ukraine’.
The Scottish Government has offered to act as a single super sponsor for the first phase of the UK scheme which relies on matches being made between refugees and individual sponsors. If accepted by the UK Government, this means that people won’t need to be matched to come into the country, and we could see refugees arriving as early as this weekend. The Scottish Government is working closely with partners, particularly local authorities as well as the Refugee Council, the NHS, Disclosure Scotland, and others to co-ordinate a response to the crisis.
The role of housing associations
Housing associations have been keen to support refugees and have already been in touch with local authorities, with offers of accommodation to help people coming into the country. It is envisaged that, initially, people will be offered temporary accommodation, and the Scottish Government will work with partners to complete safeguarding checks, put in place wider health, education, practical and befriending support and arrange longer-term accommodation. Members that wish to offer support should work with local government if they are able to offer accommodation for refugees coming into the country.
Tenants who wish to support refugees
There has also been a huge response from individuals across the UK, with offers of accommodation in spare rooms and housing association tenants have also been in touch with their landlords to see if they are able to help with temporary accommodation. This is a humanitarian response to this crisis, and the Scottish Government has welcomed offers of accommodation from the public. However, the Scottish Government has stressed that, while this may be a partial solution, there are other ways that people can support refugees. In part, the concerns reflect the concerns of many of our members in considering these issues. Refugees could be here for a very long time, longer than people can reasonably be able to provide accommodation in their homes with all the challenges this entails, so there is a need to plan for longer-term sustainable accommodation.
In the meantime, in considering requests from tenants, there are some very practical issues for housing associations to consider:
- What conversations are you having locally with local authorities about the potential need for hosts to accommodate refugees?
- Are your tenants:
- aware that they need your permission as landlord to host someone in their home?
- aware that they will have to undergo checks by Disclosure Scotland?
- prepared for refugees to be with them for long periods and aware of the implications of having long-term guests in their home?
- aware of the potential support needs of people who have gone through a very traumatic experience?
- Is the property big enough to support additional people without overcrowding?
- Is the tenant vulnerable or do they have complex needs that may impact on their ability to host?
- Are tenants aware that they will be responsible for the behaviour of anyone who lives in their home?
- Are there any legal proceedings against the tenant that could put their tenancy at risk and create further crisis for refugees?
- Are there other ways that your tenants can offer support?
This is a moving situation which may develop very quickly. We know that housing associations and their tenants are keen to help, and SFHA will keep members as up to date as possible as the situations develops. We are in regular contact with the Scottish Government as the situation progresses and this will be a priority for discussion at the Social Housing Resilience Group on Tuesday.
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