Dear all – I have slipped out of the routine of weekly updates, now things have to some degree settled down, but thought you might appreciate this occasional fuller update, to pass on as appropriate.
- The Welcome Point at Stansted airport continues to welcome, support, and assist around 400 Ukrainian arrivals every week. We are continuing to block book hotel rooms and provide assistance for the small proportion who are not travelling on immediately to other parts of the country. Our colleagues at CVSU are staffing these welcome points, supported as necessary at the airport by UDC staff carrying out our specialist roles, particularly around housing, and I’m sure you’d all join me in again thanking them.
- DLUHC have set up a new internal unit specifically dedicated to the Welcome Points, their main priority at the moment is to secure additional funding. They are building a case to take to Ministers within the next 3 – 4 weeks to secure enough funding for Welcome Points to continue running for at least another 6 – 8 months. We are feeding into these discussions with evidence of what is required and funding needed.
- Currently at Stansted we have enough funding to continue for another month or 2 beyond the end of the initial contract period (which is 2nd July 2022). If government funding isn’t forthcoming but the need hasn’t by then dried up, then we will of course have to return to discussing how to avoid pulling the plug prematurely and leaving vulnerable new arrivals in the lurch.
- Essex CC now have a mechanism in place to start paying sponsors their £350 per month ‘thank you’ payment. The problem is that the sponsor can only receive the payment once all 5 checks are completed. The main issue is the DBS check which is causing long delays. To be clear – the checks we are required to carry out as the District Council are not the problem here – it is a national issue entirely outside our control, or that of Essex County Council who are responsible for making these payments. If I were the County, I would consider making the payments at risk pending the successful DBS checks – but that is their decision rather than ours.
- On 20th June Essex will begin testing a prepaid card scheme to pay the £200 payment to the Ukrainian guests in 3 districts (Tendring, Epping, and Maldon). If everything goes well in those test districts Uttlesford can expect to also join that process 2 weeks later. For now, UDC are currently continuing to distribute the £200 in cash via the Community team, which as I am sure you can appreciate is pretty labour intensive, but something our staff are (as usual!) embracing.
- According to the latest data provided by ECC (dated 8th June), 147 Ukrainians have arrived in Uttlesford with a further 114 still planning on arriving (for a total of 261, so far). This is taking up a lot of staff resource for us and the County.
- Discussions are being held with Essex CC and other authorities regarding the rematching process when sponsorships fail. The thoughts are that rematching is best co-ordinated by Essex CC with a fuller overview and the ability to view cross boundary sponsors and offer wider ranging support. Some of the relationships failed very quickly and very badly, as we rather sadly predicted.
- We are still waiting to hear re apportionment of the £10,500 per hosted family that is being paid to Essex CC rather than us. We are being given indications from the finance group that we will get direct costs such as the £200 payments that have been made but it is unclear how we seek staff time costs etc for additional functions we are being asked to undertake. As you can imagine, our representations on this point are appropriately robust.
- The Government have made changes to the Homelessness Code of Guidance and Social Housing Allocations Guidance following new Regulations that have come into force. The changes will mean that people utilising the Ukraine Extension Scheme are eligible for social housing and homelessness assistance. This will impact our already stretched small team and we will be looking at what changes will need to be made to cope with the additional workload.
- As the situation has settled down and the response becomes more routine, the multi-agency meetings have now moved to a 2-weekly rhythm. The UDC Incident Management Team has now also moved to a 2-weekly pattern to reflect this – although frequency can be increased again as required.
There are of course lots of reports of local communities embracing their new guests and supporting both them and their hosts actively at a local level, and parishes, churches & faith groups, and other local community groups are – as usual – doing our area proud.
Hope that’s helpful as an update
PETER HOLT, chief executive of Uttlesford District Council