Ukraine Crisis

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 sevenoakswelcomesrefugees@gmail.com and we will reply to you as quickly as we can.

Thank you for supporting the resettlement of refugees in our area.

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.

westkentmind.org.uk/i-want-to-learn/training-courses/mh-awareness-supporting-ukrainian-refugees/


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

· Befriending

· Teaching English

· Transport

· Accessing services (NHS, schools, benefits)

· Identifying financial support needs

· Translation/interpretation

· 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.


Thank you.

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: sevenoakswelcomesrefugees@gmail.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.

Matchmaking

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.