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Social Work and the war in Ukraine

BASW latest update

As the war in Ukraine continues to rage, 12 million people are now thought to have fled the country.  BASW remains committed to supporting and lobbying for a more effective and generous response by UK government to this humanitarian crisis, and to promoting the role and influence of social workers in supporting Ukrainians in the UK.

27,100 Ukrainians have now come to the UK via the two refugee schemes and members are beginning to tell us about their social work and personal experiences supporting people.

There are heartening reports of of community mobilisation, kindness, openness and good support and information from appointed local authority leads in some areas.

There are also many ongoing concerns about the schemes which are laid out below– not least the many blocks inherent in the way the schemes have been set up which prevent more people fleeing  Ukraine from reaching the UK and delay many with visas from arriving. We continue to play a disproportionately tiny role in this regional refugee crisis.

Update on refugee settlement schemes

We have continued to add our voice to criticism of the ‘fitness for purpose’ of the two Ukrainian settlement schemes in place – the family settlement scheme allowing family members to sponsor relatives from the Ukraine in the UK, and ‘Homes for Ukraine’ set up by the Department of Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC) , which allows unrelated people to host Ukrainian refugees.

Both schemes are slow, complex, full of hoops to jump through - and are creating risks as well as offering the potential of safety.

The Home Secretary is potentially facing legal action over the delays and risks in the scheme – Priti Patel faces legal threat over Ukraine visa delays (BBC News online)

The numbers of Ukrainian refugees being issued visas and arriving in the UK remains low. Latest government figures available (27th April) are

Total applications for visas across both UK schemes: 117,600

Visas issued 86,100

Total arrivals 27,100

  • Via Family Scheme 16,000
  • Via Homes for Ukraine scheme 11,100

Concerns about Homes for Ukraine - which are being widely publicised and researched by journalists and campaigners as well as shared with us by members - include:

  • Safeguarding risks for adults and children through the unregulated matching process, although mitigated by the requirement of local authority checks on hosts and homes
  • Delays in visa processing and provision, including different timescales for visas for members of the same families.
  • The scheme not allowing unaccompanied minors to travel to the UK even with parental consent and full safeguarding arrangements in place with hosts
  • Lack of structured support for hosts and families, and lack of planning and resources to support Ukrainians if hosting breaks down. This could lead to destitution of some Ukrainian refugees.
  • Lack of coordination between these schemes and the mainstream asylum-seeking processes e.g. when Ukrainians arrive as asylum seekers first
  • Overall lack of coordination and data intelligence from DHLUHC to inform local planning

BASW Action

BASW still awaits a response to its open letter which was sent to Michael Gove at Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities on 6th April about these matters.

We will continue to press for improvements in the scheme alongside partner organisations, through work with MPs and Peers in Westminster, and in the legislatures in the devolved governments. And we will continue to promote the role of social workers within the collective public service and civil society response of the UK to this European crisis.

Official government advice on the schemes is available here

Creating social worker guidance

In an open members’ meeting on 28th April, we discussed what the role of social workers needs to be in this (and other) refugee crisis and how social workers can best be supported. Taking account of the good guidance already being created already by others, BASW will develop our own guidance for social workers. Local authorities and other public and third sector organisations are already under tremendous financial and workload strain. Good guidance can support confidence and provide information and advice on best practice.

Call for members to join short-term Working Group to create social worker guidance resources

Any members interested in helping with developing, drafting or providing feedback on social worker guidance, please email policyadmin@basw.co.uk 

Social work Voices on Ukraine 

If you have experiences related to the crisis in Ukraine,  UK social work response or personal experiences to chare, do get in touch with our PSW magazine editor at editor@basw.co.uk

BASW member and international social work podcaster David Niven has created ‘Voices from Ukraine’ podcasts which can be downloaded from his website