Close-up of hand on suitcase and a flag of Ukraine

Sponsoring Ukrainian refugees in the UK: Everything you need to know

With more Ukrainian refugees entering the UK, one of Impellam Group’s own has recently welcomed a Ukrainian refugee under the Ukraine Sponsorship Scheme. Choosing to remain anonymous, they share their experience on finding someone to sponsor and being prepared for their arrival.

It was something we always wanted to do.

My partner and I have previously considered opening our home up to people in need, but the timing had not been right for our family before. Sheltering a person in need can have a significant impact on your household. We wanted to wait until our children were mature enough to understand such an undertaking and handle the emotional aspects involved.

Now that they’re older, we felt compelled to help. After all, we would want someone to help our family if the roles were reversed.

Finding someone to sponsor.

We had to use our initiative to find out how we could sponsor and host a Ukrainian refugee in the UK as we didn’t have any Ukrainian connections beforehand. We found Oleksandra (not her real name) through a forum for musicians.

Alternatively, the mobile app, Nextdoor, is a great resource for connecting with your local neighbourhood, and more importantly, finding a Ukrainian community in your area. Facebook groups are also a great way to connect with that community.

Our search for someone to sponsor.

While doing our search, we tried to look out for someone who had an interest in music so they would feel more comfortable in our home. Our family is musically inclined so we felt it would be a great way to bond if we couldn’t communicate through a common spoken language.

Oleksandra happened to be a piano teacher and also had a great command of English so that made the connection easier to build. We initiated a few Skype calls at first so we could all to get to know each other a little better. The majority of the refugees are women and children, and sadly, they are also the ones most at risk.

Learning more about each other.

While we didn’t ask too much about her current situation, we did check in on the kind of skills and work experience she had (so we could support her to find work in the UK), if she had any contacts in the UK and shared links to our local area so she could familiarise herself with it.

It was important we informed her of our home dynamic (such as if we had pets or young children), as well as the type of living quarters she’d receive (such as if she would have a shared or private bathroom or a lock on her door) so she could know what to expect.

We created a WhatsApp group to share photos of our home with her so she could see where she would be staying. It was a great way to communicate as she was able to ask us whatever she wanted to before arriving.

Speeding up the application process.

Once we knew we wanted to sponsor Oleksandra, we submitted the paperwork online through the UK Government website. It could take weeks for the visa to get approved, so we wrote to our local MP who ultimately helped accelerate the application process. You will need to upload passport documents of anyone over 18 living in the household as well as downloading an invitation letter to share with the refugee.

Preparing for Oleksandra’s arrival.

Some refugees may arrive with minimal belongings. There is always the likelihood that they may arrive with nothing, so I prepared essentials such as toiletries, feminine products, a dressing gown, extra clothes, transport apps and a working sim card. You may also want to set up a WhatsApp group introducing them to their local Ukrainian community.

Each refugee will receive a one-off £200 credit card from the government when they arrive which they can use to spend on getting supplies. As a sponsor, you’ll receive £350 a month as a “thank you” from the government to contribute towards the extra costs involved in having another person in your home.

While Impellam Group were great at letting me work flexibly while I helped Oleksandra settle in, you may want to request time off with your employer as you’d need time to show them around the neighbourhood and organise other items they might require.

Be patient, empathetic and respect their space.

Prior to Oleksandra’s arrival, we spoke with mental health professionals on how we could support her. The best advice we received was to not ask too many questions and give her as much space and time as she needed.

It was important that she was allowed to adjust to a new life in her own time and that we didn’t push her for details about what she had been through. We took a step back and let her talk to us when she felt comfortable.

You could never comprehend what a refugee has gone through, so we were mindful that Oleksandra may not be ready to talk about her experiences or what she has gone through in recent months.

In the three weeks since her arrival, Oleksandra has settled in really well.

She has made some new friends and has found work here. She is finding her place in our house and is sharing her culture with us, as well as learning from ours. My family and I are humbled to be able to support Oleksandra and will do everything we can to assist her during her time in the UK.

If you know anyone that may need support on finding a job in the UK as a Ukrainian refugee, please share and visit our Jobs for Ukraine page.
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