Since Russia invaded Ukraine almost a year ago, York has welcomed more than 300 Ukrainian refugees – the vast majority of them women and children who were forced to flee their country, leaving their menfolk behind.
They have been staying with more than 180 different hosts or sponsors in the city.
“However, as the war in Ukraine continues and the country’s infrastructure comes under constant attack, we have new requests every day from families wanting to flee the violence and find sanctuary in the UK,” said Rebecca Russell of York City of Sanctuary.
Some of the Ukrainian families already in York also need to find new sponsors because, for whatever reason, their host families can no longer continue not support them, Rebecca said.
So, with the anniversary of the Russian invasion of Ukraine fast approaching, the charity has decided to set up a new register of sponsors.
“We want to reach new sponsors and reconnect with those who have not already been matched,” Rebecca said.
The UK Government has confirmed that the Homes for Ukraine scheme, under which host families receive a monthly payment if they take in Ukrainian refugees, will run for another year from March 2023.
The tax-free monthly payment for sponsors has been increased from £350 to £450 by City of York Council.
And for sponsors hosting Ukrainians who have been here for 12 months or more, the payment will increase to £500. That is regardless of whether you were the original sponsor or not.
But Rebecca admitted that being a sponsor, while hugely rewarding, was not always easy.
Many of the Ukrainian refugees are traumatised by war, or long desperately to return to their own country to see their menfolk.
There can be cultural and language issues. And as the war has dragged on, some host families have simply found it difficult to have guests in their home for so long.
That is why City of York Sanctuary wants to set up a fresh register of those willing to welcome Ukrainian refugees into their homes.
“There have been quite a lot of problems around the country,” Rebecca said.
“Some people just didn’t know what they were letting themselves in for.
“We have done really well in York, but we want to try to make sure that we don’t have those kinds of problems here.”
To coincide with the launch of the new register, York City of Sanctuary will be hosting an online seminar next Thursday, February 16, to offer information, support and advice to potential hosts.
“The success of the first register shows the support and generosity of the people of York, but we need to keep adding new sponsors as the demand continues to grow,” Rebecca said.
“We want to match hosts carefully and thoughtfully with Ukrainian guests.
“So if you are thinking of becoming a sponsor or have already signed our register but have not been matched (with a Ukrainian family) yet, please sign the new register.”
To find out more about the online seminar for potential sponsors, email homesforukraine@york. gov.uk