Two tech entrepreneurs have created an online platform that allows sponsors to connect with Ukrainian refugees, amid growing “frustration” at the government’s Homes for Ukraine scheme.
Under the scheme, sponsors are required to name the specific Ukrainian individual or family they wish to sponsor, which has caused many to resort to social media in order to find potential matches and get in contact.
Max Haining and Glenn McWhinney, founders of UK Homes for Ukrainians, said their online platform provides a digital solution to aid the government scheme, by allowing users to connect with refugees more quickly.
“The reason for doing it was because, like everybody, we were watching this unfold. You can give money, you can drive stuff to Ukraine, but this feeling of helplessness is real and we just thought: we can do something to help,” McWhinney told TLE.
“We were really trying to help with what we call ‘filling the top of the funnel’. You’ve got this process in place, and the government processes and all of their checks and measures – we’re not trying to bypass that, but we do need to get those initial people connected.”
Homes for Ukrainians
Sponsors who sign up to the digital platform are asked to include details about the rooms they have available, their location, and for how long they can accommodate someone to allow refugees to choose a sponsor that meets their requirements.
To date, nearly 1,000 UK homeowners are viewable on the platform, with more than 482 Ukrainian refugees signed-up and 4,312 connections made.
McWilliam said the pair plan to add further updates to the platform, enabling users to narrow down searches even further into geographical regions.
“All we really want to do is make sure that people could connect in these earliest stages so that they had a named person on the sponsorship form, and actually got to communicate effectively and safely before they got to that point.
“That’s as far as we wanted to go. We’re avoiding politics and avoiding giving advice that is outside our area of expertise. We can’t claim to be able to help with the visa application processing, for example.”
The UK’s first government-finded scheme linking sponsors with Ukrainian refugees was launched at the beginning of April, two weeks after the Homes for Ukrain scheme opened for visa applications.
The Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC) has been working to expand the scheme to those without a match and has given £300,000 in initial funding to Reset, which has developed a pilot service that matches refugees with sponsors.
It hopes to expand the service more widely after more than 7,000 refugees were initially registered on its website, along with 8,000 UK households, offering places for more than 20,000 refugees.
Kate Brown, CEO of Reset Communities and Refugees, said: “This is an extraordinary moment for the refugee welcome movement in the UK. With 200,000 people signed up to offer their homes under the Homes for Ukraine scheme, and hundreds of thousands more offering support, we are in a position to help more refugees than ever before.
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