Please use the links below to access more information about how you can help, or read about our response to the Ukraine crisis.
If you have any questions please contact us at email@example.com and we will reply to you as quickly as we can.
Thank you for supporting the resettlement of refugees in our area.
If you are reading this page from Ukraine, we are sorry but we don't have the resources to help link you with a host. Please see this UK government advice on finding an organisation who may be able to help you: www.gov.uk/guidance/recognised-providers-organisations-who-can-help-guests-from-ukraine-find-sponsors-in-the-uk
Thursday 16 February - free online phonics lessons for Ukrainian children, starting on 6th March
Friday 27 January - an urgent appeal for volunteers to help with Ukrainian guests
As you will be aware the war in Ukraine is showing little sign of being over. So we continue to need volunteers to help, both with those already here and those due to arrive.
People newly arriving need support with signing on with doctors, claiming benefits, opening bank accounts, getting a national insurance number and other administrative tasks. We are also looking for more language volunteers, to help the refugees learn English.
Many of those here are facing a time of transition. They will be looking for their own accommodation so will need support for searching and viewing potential accommodation.
If you feel you have any time to spare and could help in this way, we would be delighted to hear from you.
Please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org
We – and Sevenoaks District Council and Kent County Council - are also very keen to talk to anyone potentially interested in being a host for Ukrainian refugees. To help find new hosts, please help us distribute this flyer (below), which you can download when you CLICK HERE.
See also this link to the SDC website CLICK HERE.
Wednesday 7 December - looking for more hosts
Please see the attached poster (produced by SDC) for more hosts to help Ukraine families that are coming to the District. The payment is until the end of March to cover winter fuel costs. We are awaiting to hear to see if this payment will stay the same from 1 April 2023.
SDC will be holding 2 x host events in the New Year. Venues tbc but please hold the date for:
Wednesday 18 January 18.30 – 20.30 Swanley (Venue tbc)
Thursday 19 January 18.30 – 20.30 Sevenoaks (Venue tbc)
Sunday 6 November - changes to Ukraine host payments
There has been a change in the rate of “thank you” payments made by KCC to those of you hosting Ukrainians under the Homes for Ukraine scheme. This change, and these rates only apply to the KCC district, but are similar to some other counties in the UK. Details are copied below.
Household size New monthly thank you payment
1 person £50 extra per month
2 people £150 extra per month
3 people £250 extra per month
4 people £350 extra per month
5 people £450 extra per month
6 people £550 extra per month
7 + people £650 extra per month
These payments will be in place from October 2022 to March 2023 and you will receive your first back dated instalment at the end of November. KCC also announced “In addition to the increased monthly ‘Thank You’ payments, for those hosts who have supported their guests for more than 6 months by March 2023, we will pay a further single payment of £500 in March in recognition of your continued support during these difficult times.”
The full text of the KCC announcement is here. The KCC website page with this information is here.
Monday 22 August - Ukraine update
Sevenoaks Welcomes Refugees is now working directly with 50 Ukrainian families, which is about a third of those known to be in the Sevenoaks District. This represents a significant increase above our previous workload before the start of the war in Ukraine. We still receive requests from families in Ukraine and elsewhere, but we have now matched all the hosts that we know of. If more hosts respond to our appeal [see below], then we can match them with families desperately seeking refuge. If you know of anybody who could accommodate a Ukrainian family, then please ask them to get in touch.
The vast majority of Ukrainian families settle quickly. A number have already found work of some kind and are clearly determined to make what they can of their new lives here. But we do encounter some difficulties, and we should not under-estimate the impact that leaving loved ones behind has on them. West Kent Mind provided some excellent training for hosts, and we hope to provide some similar training aimed at the Ukrainians themselves. We also recognise that at some point some of them will sadly suffer a death in the family and support will be necessary, so we will also try to address this issue in the next few months.
We are approaching the six month point for several hosts and their Ukrainian guests. Some hosts, for very good reasons, stated at the outset that they could only provide accommodation for six months. At this point in time, there is no overall policy to handle this situation and we know that KCC and SDC are doing what they can to plan for cases where hosts must bring an end to their offer. The ideal solution is of course that the host extends their offer, but if they are unable to do so, then the Councils will endeavour to find a rematch. However, there is no guarantee that a rematch will be in the Sevenoaks district, or even within Kent. This is another driver of our appeal for more hosts. We will provide updates on this issue as soon as we can.
The fear that there would be little to occupy children during the long summer holidays was largely mitigated by many organisations offering a range of activities which we publicise to hosts and family leads through our weekly Calendar of Events & Activities. Most of the children have school places, but we are aware of challenges when it comes to entry to secondary schools. KCC are helping us with this issue, and there has generally been a tremendous response from schools in both the public and private sectors. It is reassuring to see the community reacting in such a welcoming and positive way when there is gloominess in so many other areas. We have an excellent relationship with KCC and SDC and they have both made significant resources available to help deal with the Ukraine schemes.
Thank you to all hosts, volunteers and supporters for your help for Ukrainian and all the refugee families in our area. Your help is making a huge difference to the lives of these families.
Monday 13 June - Short update on the current situation
We are very appreciative of the tremendously compassionate and generous outpouring of support being provided to the resettlement of refugees in the Sevenoaks District Council area at this time. All the various contributions are making a real difference: volunteers giving their time, financial donations, hosts taking refugees into their own homes, and landlords making rented property available to the schemes.
On Ukraine, we are currently liaising with 37 hosts, and this could rise to 45 over the next few weeks, giving shelter to 110 refugees from Ukraine. Other local organisations, such as Care For Our Community Ukraine, Sevenoaks In Support of Ukraine and many churches are also liaising with hosts.
On Syria and Afghanistan, there are currently 8 families living in our area, resettling here under the official Government schemes. A further 2 families from Afghanistan are in transit to rented properties that have recently been made available to the schemes and will be arriving in the next few weeks. That will take the number of refugees from Syria and Afghanistan resettling in our area to 60.
Tuesday 17 May - Update on Ukrainian refugees in our area
We are pleased to say that we have made great progress in helping to bring Ukrainian refugees to resettle in our area under the "Homes for Ukraine" scheme. About 35 families have now been matched with host families which equates to around 80 people.
We have visited nearly all host families to explain the process, help them with visa applications and talk about ongoing support from SWR. It has been and remains a steep learning curve for us as we try to understand the challenges faced by Ukrainian families and their hosts. Individual circumstances vary greatly, and we need to be very sensitive to this in everything we do.
About a quarter of the Ukrainian families have now arrived, with the remainder expected in the next 3 - 4 weeks. We anticipate that by the end of June, we will have welcomed the majority of the currently identified Ukrainian families. The number of refugees approaching us has now reduced significantly as circumstances change in the war. It is dangerous to speculate, but it appears that many Ukrainians are deciding to remain for the time being, particularly those living in the Western areas now that the Russian offensive is primarily focussed on the east and Black Sea coastal areas.
There remain a small number of hosts who have not been matched with Ukrainian families, but we expect that all will have been matched within a week or two. Notwithstanding all of the above, we are still very keen to hear from anybody considering hosting a family as the situation could change rapidly. Early feedback is that there is great relief and gratitude from the refugees, but this is mixed with an understandable degree of bewilderment and anxiety which we must not underestimate. Neither must we underestimate the potential strain on the host families who are doing a very remarkable and difficult thing here. We believe that we can make a big difference to the smooth-running of these wonderful but potentially delicate relationships.
To this end we have identified some Family Leads from amongst our volunteer base who are now starting to work closely with hosts and Ukrainian families. This is critically important as we will really only understand what we have to do once we have had a chance to meet the families and their hosts together and understand their respective needs.
It cannot be stated strongly enough that this has been the product of some amazing teamwork. We continue to work closely with and get great support from Care for Our Community, Kent County Council and Sevenoaks District Council, West Kent Mind and increasingly with Clarion as their role grows. Our engagement with other local organisations including schools and churches is also growing fast.
The early priorities for the families will tend to focus on language, access to schools and healthcare and employment opportunities. We are working to develop the best approach to support language learning and working closely with other providers to ensure that we all maximise benefits rather than overlapping our efforts. We will also work actively with other organisations to ensure that activities particularly for school age children continue during the schools’ summer recess.
Whilst we are very proud that the response to this crisis has been very robust, we want to assure you that this has not been at the cost of support to the Syrian and Afghan families in our area (some of whom have themselves come forward to become actively engaged in providing support for the Ukraine effort). We are anticipating bringing on at least two more Afghan families in June and the existing families continue to thrive which is wonderful to see. It is becoming increasingly clear that there is a growing understanding in this area of the plight of refugees from all backgrounds. We sense a greater awareness and recognition of the challenges faced by all refugees which is hugely appreciated. This is the heart of our mission.
Tuesday 10 May - Mental Health Awareness Training for those supporting Ukranian refugees
Starting 24th May: free sessions - some in person and some over Zoom:
A three-hour session ideal for existing or potential hosts, sponsors, those who volunteer or work for public sector or voluntary organisations involved in the support effort, and community representatives from churches, schools and social activity clubs/groups.
The session is aimed at supporting adults, although there will be signposting and other relevant information provided for supporting children and young people. The workshop is in English; unfortunately we are not able to offer translation or other languages.
Saturday 23 April - what Kent is doing to help
Information on how KCC is helping refugees, including information on how local hosts can best support their guests: Ukraine - Kent County Council
Sunday 17 April - More volunteers needed!
Since Sevenoaks Welcomes Refugees started in 2017 the refugee families resettling in our area have come from Syria and Afghanistan. Whilst we will of course continue to welcome refugees arriving in our area from those countries, the war in Ukraine means that we need more volunteers to help what is likely to be a large number of refugees from there too.
The Government scheme currently in place to support Ukrainian refugees is very different from previous schemes, as it is built around host families accommodating refugees in their own homes rather than in privately rented properties: the nature of volunteer support will therefore be rather different too.
There are many facets to supporting a refugee family and their hosts including the following:
· Supporting the visa application process
· Teaching English
· Accessing services (NHS, schools, benefits)
· Identifying financial support needs
· Sourcing necessities such as clothes, cots and toys
· Identifying safeguarding issues
· Problem resolution
We work closely with Sevenoaks District Council and Kent County Council and their respective support agencies, and SWR volunteers fill many gaps and aim to ensure that the refugee families receive the best possible support. We will provide you with all the support and training that you need.
Our Language Team is working with partners on a comprehensive English Support Programme for refugees from Ukraine, which we expect to be ready in a few weeks. As an interim measure, we have prepared a starter pack of language resources and workbooks for hosts and refugees. This will help us to make an informed baseline assessment of the level of English support that is required. If you would like to receive the starter pack of language resources and workbooks, please contact us. All refugees are also welcome to attend the informal weekly 'Meet and Practice' sessions at Sevenoaks Library, each Wednesday from 10:00 - 11:00.
This is going to be a big challenge. If you can join us to help and sign up as a volunteer, we would love to hear from you. We are looking for volunteers in all parts of the Sevenoaks District Council area. Please use the new volunteer sign up form on our website here.
Friday 15 April - Processes and Support Resources: Offering a house, and Resources for Refugees
Two more useful guides - one on Offering a house for refugees, and another which is a list of organisations and websites with Resources for Refugees.
Wednesday 13 April - Processes and Support Resources: Hosts and Volunteers
Working closely together with Kent County Council, Sevenoaks District Council, Care For Our Community (Ukraine) and other organisations we have put together two guides: How to offer to host refugees in your home, and How to sign up as a volunteer with Sevenoaks Welcomes Refugees.
We will be sharing other guides in the next few days.
If you have any questions or feedback, please contact us at: email@example.com
Saturday 9 April - UK Hosts for Ukraine report
This report is based on an online survey conducted by the Facebook group - UK Hosts for Ukrainian Families Support Group. The survey was open between 4-7 April 2022, and was designed to bring together joint concerns from members of that group. In total, 150 UK hosts participated in the study. 5 of the UK hosts were from Wales, 5 from Scotland, and the remaining 140 from England.
Read the report here.
Thursday 7 April - Message for Ukraine hosts
Sevenoaks District Council (SDC) has confirmed (5.4.22) that in addition to the items on the Home Assessment Form checklist (download a copy here) they will require evidence of a gas safety/service inspection.
If you do not have this, your SDC assessor can advise you on the exact requirement, how soon it needs to be provided and whether any part of the cost can be reimbursed by SDC. It will not delay the visit.
SDC has confirmed that they are not asking for an electric safety certificate.
Wednesday 30 March - supporting refugees
We have agreed a joined-up approach with Sevenoaks District Council (SDC) and Care for our Community (CFOC) to ensure maximum coordination. We are keen to work with other organisations and networks – if you can help, please get in touch.
SWR will develop whatever systems and processes we need to coordinate support in our area. We endeavour to extend our support to all hosts and refugees who request it of us. We will need to significantly grow our resources in order to do this.
We will engage with hosts to establish what level of support they are able to offer to the refugees they accommodate, and will strive to fill any gaps. In cooperation with KCC, SDC, CFOC and other groups, we will provide signposting so that the refugees can be registered for the services such as schools, benefits and healthcare.
Sunday 20 March - update
Registration of interest on UK Government Homes for Ukraine website
On 18 March we registered Sevenoaks Welcomes Refugees’ interest in becoming a sponsor, to help connect people offering accommodation with people seeking accommodation. We are now waiting for the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC) to invite us to apply to be a sponsor. Once our application has been accepted (we have no idea how long this will take) we understand we will be connected to people needing accommodation.
The UK Government has said that the Homes for Ukraine website will connect people offering accommodation with people seeking accommodation. So because we are a small team with limited resources we do not propose to try and make these connections ourselves – we would be duplicating what the Government says it is doing, and we are worried about receiving a volume of requests that we could not handle efficiently. We will go on trying to connect those refugees whose details we already have, and from now on encourage everyone who has details of refugees needing accommodation to enter them on the Homes For Ukraine website. Some connections between accommodation-givers and accommodation-seekers are being made on the Sevenoaks Welcomes Refugees Facebook group, unfacilitated by SWR volunteers: we welcome and support this, but we do not have the resources to coordinate it.