UKRAINE – UPDATE 15th March 2022
NB – the detail in this note is correct at the time of issue. It is subject to change
At the last meeting of Council, there was unanimous condemnation of the actions taken by Vladimir Putin and the Russian Government but also unanimous support for the Ukraine government and the people of Ukraine.
We will all have watched with horror the escalation of the war since.
Many people have lost their lives, their homes and their livelihoods. The scale of the humanitarian crisis that is unfolding is horrific and there is a real urgency to put in place practical means of support for those who have been displaced from their homes.
I fully support the First Minister’s commitment that Wales should be a nation of sanctuary and to this end officers and members of the cabinet are actively engaging with Welsh Government to make speedy preparations to receive Ukrainian refugees.
On Monday of this week the UK Government announced two special visa routes:
A Family Visa route – this is now open and essentially provides a pathway for those refugees who have family already resident in the UK.
The second route is the Home for Ukrainians scheme – from Monday of this week, those who have accommodation that they can offer for at least six months can register their interest in participating in the scheme. There are two sub elements to this programme. The first is for people with accommodation who know Ukrainians seeking support and the second will be for those people who have accommodation but do not have a connection to a Ukrainian seeking support. In the second element, civic society – for example church groups and charities – will have a role in matching someone seeking support with someone able to provide that support.
When there is a match between someone offering support and someone requesting support, the digital portal provides for criminal records check of both parties and if that is satisfactory a visa is then issued. Those with a visa will have the right to access public funds and public services from the point of arrival. Local authorities will be expected to make local safeguarding checks to make sure that the accommodation is suitable and so on.
There is no UK assistance with travel – it is for the refugee to find their way to the UK.
Welsh Government have agreed in principle with the UK Government that they would wish to operate as a super sponsor. As part of this role, the Welsh Government would be looking to establish a number of reception centres before dispersing refugees to a network of accommodation.
Local authorities will receive a tariff of £10,500 per refugee in year one but the tariff for years 2 and 3 is yet to be determined. This funding will meet the costs of providing services – for example education for those families with children of school age.
As members will appreciate, this is a very fast-moving picture which is subject to considerable change. The Chief Executive has asked that the Director of Social Services, Mr Andrew Jarrett co-ordinates this Council’s involvement in the humanitarian effort. He will be establishing an internal cross directorate group to co-ordinate our own service response and a second multi-agency group to co-ordinate the wider community response.
On the back of the pandemic when many services, particularly care, education and housing are under severe ongoing pressure, there will be challenges ahead. However, we will pull out all the stops to play a full part in responding to this humanitarian crisis.
In addition to the humanitarian crisis that we are responding to, there are wider ramifications for us. We were already seeing the cost-of-living crisis hit many of our residents hard and the increased energy costs and related inflationary pressures will compound this. The Chief Executive is taking steps to establish these wider impacts and how we can mobilise the best response. As we move into the pre-election period arrangements will be put in place to ensure there is regular communication with elected members so that we are working cohesively to support our communities and our local businesses whilst also ensuring Ukrainian people find a safe and supportive haven here in Neath Port Talbot.
Mr Mayor, the Chief Executive will be arranging for this brief update to be sent by e mail to all elected members following the meeting today.