Written evidence submitted by Buckinghamshire Council

1. Introduction and context

Over recent years, Buckinghamshire has been proud to welcome those fleeing their own country due to the risk of serious human rights violations and/or persecution or war. Buckinghamshire Council and our residents were committed to offering sanctuary from Ukrainian residents from the commencement of the national Homes for Ukraine programme.

We recognise that Homes for Ukraine was set up at speed in response to a crisis and was delivering a very new, innovative approach to resettlement. We recognise that this was a learning programme that was reviewed and shaped as the scheme progressed. Our feedback aims to provide an insight to how decisions, information and funding affected a local authority, and can be used to inform any future schemes of this nature.

Buckinghamshire residents demonstrated their compassion, and many stepped forward to open their homes to Ukrainian families in March 2022. We are now home to 1,812 Ukrainian guests equating to 997 households (1,149 adults and 663 children which includes 12 unaccompanied minors). There are 473 who have been matched, but not yet arrived in Buckinghamshire. In total, we have supported 918 sponsors since the start of the programme. Currently in Buckinghamshire there are 298 active sponsors, which has meant that local housing picture is changing. The housing status for Ukrainian guests in Buckinghamshire is detailed in the table below:

Housing status


Living with a sponsor


Gone into a rematch sponsor


Living in private rental


Living in social housing


Moved out of area


Returned to Ukraine



We recognise the changing demands for housing and the barriers that may arise from this. As a result, we offer a corporate guarantor scheme to support Ukrainian guests into private rental accommodation.

Buckinghamshire Council manages all of the welfare support and liaison with a dedicated team of Refugee Welfare officers acting as sponsor liaison officers – manging this inhouse as opposed to outsourcing to a provider. We believe this allows us to be very flexible in how we operate in line with the needs of Ukrainian guests and our resident sponsors. We support the many community groups that have started up over the last 18 months to support Ukrainians and also provide grants to voluntary organisations to provide additional support, including to teach English language skills and provide employment support. We also used Govt funding to establish capacity across the council to provide the specific support needed, including within children’s services, within HR to support employment in the Council, within adult social care to support DBS checks, and within environmental health to undertake required property checks. Currently, the council employs 21 Ukrainian guests, including 3 within the Asylum and Migration team.

With local ESOL provision at capacity, we are looking at innovative solutions to increase the number of qualified TEFL and ESOL teachers and will support these newly qualified teachers into providing community-based classes. Initially, we are recruiting Ukrainian guests and Afghan refugees and the ambition is that these new teachers may then progress to employment with Buckinghamshire Adult Learning as demand has outstripped the supply of ESOL teachers.

We have rigorous processes in place to support Ukrainian guests both with their sponsorships but also to move into independent accommodation, and are very proud of the package of support we provide to both sponsors and guests. The high-performing Asylum and Migration team is rightly proud of their work, their ability to flex and change as required, meet new challenges and deal with issues as they arise.

We closely monitor key metrics relating to asylum and migration in Buckinghamshire, to enable us to assess the impact of schemes and plan action in response to changing trends. A copy of the dashboard is attached for your information.

2. The objectives of the scheme and how it was set up

2.1               Guidance

At the launch of the programme, the Sponsor Liaison Officer training was good, providing us with clarity around the two schemes available for Ukrainians to arrive in the UK and the responsibilities of the Local Authority in relation to these schemes.. However, it was less clear what level of support we were expected to provide to Homes for Ukraine guests or how funding should be utilised. We understand this was done to provide Local Authorities with greater flexibility but we believe it would have been beneficial to have had additional guidance (similar to the Afghan Resettlement funding guidance) which would also ensure a consistent approach across the country.

2.2               Government Contacts

With programmes of this nature, we find it helpful to have a single point of contact in the relevant government department, DLUHC. We appreciate the additional strain this may place on the department due to the number of LAs involved. This was initially not the case which made it more challenging to get answers to questions. We were advised to raise any issues via Foundry – however this was only really used for technical problems. Once a single point of contact had been confirmed, they were incredibly helpful and supportive but we recognised they were covering a wide geographic area. With staff frequently moving on we did, on occasion, have to spend time trying to find our new point of contact. As this programme crossed multiple government departments, queries could take longer where they had to seek expertise elsewhere.

The regional Strategic Migration Partnerships are critical to the success of the refugee resettlement programmes but do not seem to have a key role to play in Homes for Ukraine. This should be explored further to consider whether or not they could support Local Authorities as they do in other areas of work.

2.3              Understanding the offers made

It may have been beneficial for councils to see the information provided to Ukrainians prior to them arriving in the UK to ensure we were matching the offers made. Solely based on information provided by our guests we were not always able to deliver on these whilst also ensuring parity with existing residents. We also found that there was a disparity between the offers made to Ukrainians from national companies to other groups e.g. Afghan refugees.


3. Arrival numbers and checks conducted on applicants and sponsors

3.1               Foundry

We understand the speed and circumstances around the set up of the Foundry system, which are detailed in the National Audit Office report. Initially, the system created numerous multiple records due to the recording processes in place. Ukrainians applying all had to cross reference the group they were travelling with, for example – if there was a family of 5, there would be 25 records in Foundry. This caused confusion as we thought we were receiving 1000’s more guests than we actually were.

One of the key lessons is that it would be helpful for Local Authorities to see where an individual has applied to multiple locations across the country. This has caused issues when reconciling data for the Delta returns.

The guidance for the use of Foundry that came out in August 2022 was very good. As Foundry was designed initially as a database and not a case management system, and with the increasing numbers of Ukrainians in Buckinghamshire, we established our own system to manage the programme and are aware that other Local Authorities did too, either through developing an in-house solution or procuring additional tools.

3.2               Visas

Initially, the issuing of visas  was fairly slow, which gave us time to undertake all the necessary checks with sponsors in advance of the guests arrivals -which we felt was preferable and enabled us to assess and mitigate risk. When the speed of issuing visa’s sped up, whilst a positive for the guests, did not leave Local Authorities with sufficient time to undertake all checks.

3.3              Checks

With the pressure to find accommodation, we did at times feel unsupported by DLUHC/UKVI when we expressed concerns about a sponsor and their intentions.

When we were advised by DLUHC that there was an “adverse hit” against a Buckinghamshire sponsor we were not provided with the reasons. We had to relay this information to the sponsor who were understandably concerned that there was something against their name, despite nothing appearing on the enhanced DBS check. These residents put in Subject Access Requests and the ruling was subsequently overturned. Further information sharing between DLUHC, UKVI and Local Authorities would have helped to ensure understanding was consistent across all parties.


4. Funding provided for the scheme

4.1              Funding

As a Council with a large number of Ukrainian guests, we feel that the funding provided to date through the programme has been sufficient and ensured the council is able to provide a high level of support for our guests and sponsors from teams across the council and our partners. However, future funding arrangements are unclear, for example the continuation of the Thank You payment for sponsors, and this may cause pressure in future periods.

Forecasting our use of the funding available locally was challenging in the early stages of the scheme as there were disparities between the number of projected arrivals and the number of actual arrivals in the county.

4.2              Delta Returns for funding

The initial Delta Return was challenging as there was limited guidance regarding how this should be reported and the definitions of information that should have been included.

Delta returns continue to prove challenging as we are asked to report the cumulative total – by adding new guests on to each quarter. With larger numbers of guests, the return can take a significant amount of time to complete and check.

It would be helpful if we were able to add evidence or make comments. It would also help the process if we receive feedback or funding for the previous quarter before we have to submit the next quarters return to avoid repeating a possible error as we have not had any validation.


4.3              Inconsistency of Education funding

The education funding for Homes for Ukraine is extremely beneficial for schools to enable them to put in the support (both EAL but also wellbeing and mental health support) for the children. However, we note there is inconsistency on Education funding across resettlement schemes:

Afghan Resettlement Scheme

3-4 years - £2,250

5-18 years - £4,500


Homes for Ukraine

Early Years - £3,000

Primary - £6,580

Secondary - £8,755

We strongly believe there should be a set tariff for these schemes as the challenges are the same for schools irrespective of the country the children are coming from.


5. Challenges

5.1 Clarity over Ukrainian schemes

To allow us to understand who is living in our county and the combined impact on our services, and to enable us to plan adequately,Local Authorities need to have access to information held by Government regarding who is living in the county on the Ukraine Family scheme. We have requested this information on several occasions but have been advised that this information could not be shared.

5.2 Understanding the wider context

Over the last two years, Local Authorities have had increasing housing pressures linked to asylum and migration. We feel it is essential that all government departments continue to acknowledge the impact on each Local Authority due to the pressures to find accommodation for asylum seekers, Afghan refugees as well as Ukrainians at a time where there are already increased pressures on housing and temporary accommodation. We know this is an area that is being looked at.

5.3              Profile of sponsors

Many of our sponsors live in affluent areas in large houses and perhaps did not anticipate that the conflict would last over a year. This meant when a sponsorship ended, guests, who did not want to leave the community they had become familiar with or move their children to other schools, were unable to afford to rent in the area. This also added additional pressures on the more affordable areas of the county.

5.4              Additional Challenges

Our Homes for Ukraine programme team often deal with situations which are not covered within existing guidance, but will also be experienced within other Local Authority areas, eg Guests returning to Ukraine for extended holidays or for medical treatment – additional guidance would be welcomed to ensure we take a consistent approach.

6. Future Risks

6.1              Thank you payments

As yet, no guidance has been shared on what will happen beyond March 2024. We are deeply concerned about the further impact on local housing if the thank you payments were to cease and sponsors were to withdraw from the scheme. We will not be able to house all those still in sponsored accommodation.

If there was a move to a rent a room scheme, we have reservations that many of our sponsors would not be content to move to this model with the legal implications that would come with this.

6.2              Visas

Ukrainian guests are incredibly anxious about the expiry of their visas. Some are approaching their second year anniversary of being in the UK. Further information about what happens on the expiry of existing visas would be helpful and also would help to ensure consistency of approach across all Local Authority areas.

6.3              BRP Cards

Despite Ukrainian guests having a 3 year visa from the date they arrive in the UK, all BRP cards state 31 December 2024 and will all need renewing at the same time. This will cause a significant pressure in the system unless mitigating action is taken in advance.

6.4              Private rental

We have concerns for those in private rental as they move to a final year of their visa. We face challenges from landlords who request 12 months rent in advance from guests but if they have 9 months left on their visa, sign up for a further 12 months we are concerned that the council will end up liable for the remaining 3 months of the contract.

6.5              End of the scheme

We all dearly hope there is a peaceful resolution to the conflict and hope that planning is taking place as to how to repatriate our Ukrainian guests when the conflict does cease. This is another area where guidance, communication and consistency of approach across Local Authority areas would be welcomed.

November 2023