Tameside couple Serena and Lee Davison have shared the story of their journey in becoming hosts for fleeing refugees from Ukraine as part of the national Homes for Ukraine scheme.
In March this year, the scheme launched in response to the ongoing war in Ukraine to allow individuals, charities, community groups and businesses to bring Ukrainians to safety – including those with no family ties to the UK.
Serena and Lee, after reading about the scheme online, joined a Facebook group that matches people and families who wish to host with Ukrainian families wishing to seek refuge.
After connecting with the family online, the couple set up a video call with the family.
Serena said: “I would recommend speaking with the person first, so you can get a feel for if you get along and if you’re right for each other. For us, our children are all grown up so we were open to taking in some more mature refugees to fit in with our lives and routine”
“There’s always going to be that element of anxiety, in inviting people you have never met into your home, whether you’re going to get along. But, as we watched people flee from war, we thought, that could just as easily be us. We knew we had to do it and I have no doubt that we did the right thing.”
Once matched up, both the host and refugee must fill out a joint application to take part. The local authority then has do to a number of checks on the property and the hosts, such as safeguarding and DBS checks and ensuring the home is suitable for the Ukrainian refugees.
Serena said: “Tameside Council went above and beyond, from their communication in the initial stages and to us get set up with single beds and a carbon monoxide detector to the support they provided to our refugees, like signposting them to access financial, health and employment support services.”
Once the family moved to the UK after eight days of travelling, they were provided with support on arrival to access universal credit, education, mental health support and signposting to register with a GP.
Tameside Council also provides links to the Employment and Skills service to help refugees into employment, working with ten other local authorities to roll out a broader range of ESOL (English Speakers of Other Languages) training to help refugees access support, education and employment more readily.
John Gregory, Head of Community Safety and Homelessness at Tameside Council, who has been leading on the scheme locally, said: “The roll out of this scheme has come with many challenges, being an unprecedented offering in a time of crisis for our Ukrainian refugees. I would like to extend thanks our host families like Serena and Lee, who have provided the upmost level of generosity and support, not only to house the incoming refugees, but in providing ongoing support to help them to adjust to life in the UK.”
Councillor Ged Cooney, Executive Leader for Tameside Council, said: “This scheme is a fantastic example of Tameside pulling together to support people in crisis. From the team at the Council to the people of Tameside who have opened up their homes to help. I would encourage anyone considering partaking in the scheme to find out more about getting involved”.
For more information about the Homes for Ukraine Scheme, go to https://www.tameside.gov.uk/supportukraine