Ukraine-Russia: Refugees in Scotland waiting weeks for UK Government payment

Refugees from Ukraine are waiting weeks after arriving in the UK to be handed an emergency payment pledged under the Homes for Ukraine visa scheme.

The Scottish host of one Ukrainian woman, 18-year-old Varvara Shevtsova, said she was still waiting for her documents to be processed by the UK Government to allow her to be guaranteed the right to stay in the UK for three years – while the £200 “welcome payment” promised for each refugee by the UK Government, which should be administered through local councils and is aimed at plugging a financial gap for refugees as they settle in, has also not materialised.

Instead, Ms Shevtsova, who arrived in Scotland on 28 March, has had to rely on her hosts, Harry and Catriona Smart, who have taken her in to their home in Montrose.

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Angus Council said the details of how refugees would supported were still “being finalised” with the UK Government.

Varvara Shevtsova with Harry and Catriona Smart.Varvara Shevtsova with Harry and Catriona Smart.
Varvara Shevtsova with Harry and Catriona Smart.

Writing in today’s Scotsman about the trials faced by Ukrainian refugees, Mr Smart said that there were delays with every aspect of the process.

An initial visa allows refugees to stay in the UK for six months, with the option to extend that to three years. However, biometric data needs to be taken before that application can be processed.

Information provided by the UK Government states that every “guest” from Ukraine will be entitled to a £200 interim payment to help with subsistence costs which will be provided by the local council. The council is also supposed to carry out a follow-up check on the accommodation provided by hosts, which Mr Smart says has also not yet taken place.

He said: “Varvara is here and so now are others. But for sponsors and guests, the bureaucracy continues. Two weeks on, Varvara still doesn’t have the welcome payment she was promised, still can’t work or claim benefits. The biometric data essential to her longer-term stay in the UK hasn’t been taken and after more than a week of trying we still don’t know where or when it will be.”

She has however, been able to easily access the NHS for a check up and to be prescribed medication.

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He said that his local MP had suggested that Ms Shevtsova’s stamp in her passport would be enough to begin work, but that he had not been able to obtain official confirmation of that.

He said: “The assumption is that employment will only be an issue further down the line. Not so: early arrivals disproportionately have good English and are keen to work.”

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A Department for Levelling Up, Housing an Communities spokesperson said: “Everyone coming to the UK under the Homes for Ukraine scheme will have access to healthcare, education, benefits and job support on the same footing as UK nationals.

“The UK government is providing £10,500 per person to help councils carry out checks and provide services for those arriving."

An Angus Council spokesperson said: “Angus Council, like all local authorities across Scotland, is working closely with the UK and Scottish Governments to put arrangements in place to support refugees coming from Ukraine. At this stage the exact detail of these arrangements is being finalised.

“If you are a host sponsor waiting to receive the £350 monthly payment, this will be arranged once the relevant disclosure and property checks have been completed. We will arrange these checks with you once we have confirmation of your details from the Scottish or UK Government authority supporting this process."

A spokesperson for Cosla, which represents Scottish local authorities, said: “Cosla and Scottish local authorities are working with the UK Government and Scottish Government to meet the requirements under the Homes for Ukrainian Schemes to enable the housing and host checks to be undertaken, and for arrivals to receive the support they require.”

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