Statement by the Local Government Association, which represents more than 350 councils across England and Wales
Responding to the government announcement that the Homes for Ukraine scheme will allow eligible children and minors under the age of 18 who have already applied through the Homes for Ukraine Scheme to come to the UK without a parent or guardian, Cllr James Jamieson, Chairman of the Local Government Association, said:
“Councils stand in solidarity with the people of Ukraine and want to do all they can to support those who have been forced to flee the desperate humanitarian crisis caused by the war.
“Councils continue to support families to build new lives in the UK. If Ukrainian children are unable to travel to the UK with their parents, it is vital that we can ensure we have a system that keeps them safe. While we support plans to make it easier for children to seek sanctuary in the UK, with their relatives or family friends as quickly as possible, councils’ top priority will always be to keep children safe. We do have real concerns about the potential for children to come to stay with adults they don’t know or don’t know well, and we want to ensure there are effective checks in place given there will always be people who abuse these systems and who pose a significant threat to children travelling on their own.
“Any system must include appropriate vetting of the people they will be staying with in advance of travel, the right support for everyone involved, and ongoing checks of children’s safety and wellbeing. It must also draw on the expertise and resources of partners including health, schools, and the voluntary and community sector to support them through the significant trauma they have experienced.
“Any additional new scheme would require already-overstretched councils and children’s social work teams to manage a significant level of risk to keep children safe. We are pleased that the Government is working closely with the LGA and councils as we need to develop a robust system that puts in place appropriate safeguards and minimises the risks to children while ensuring we can play our part in supporting the people of Ukraine.
“We also want to continue to work with government and local and national partners on the support needs for all those arriving in the UK from Ukraine, including what happens when sponsorships end. All new arrivals to the UK will need additional support from councils and their partners, including finding new homes and accessing jobs, schools and healthcare, in a way that best meets their needs. We are particularly keen to work with the Government urgently on a cross-Whitehall planned approach to access to accommodation across all programmes for people building new lives in new communities.”