In Somerset, we welcome refugees seeking a safe home in our communities. We welcomed our first refugee family to Somerset in 2016. Since then, we have committed to taking part in further government resettlement programmes. With the help of local services, charities, and generous offers from the community we have supported over 160 people to safely resettle here.

We have welcomed refugees from Syria and Afghanistan, and we will do what we can to support people escaping war in Ukraine. We know that the people of Somerset want to show the same compassionate welcome to people fleeing Ukraine.

We want to reach out to all of our Ukrainian residents, and anyone with friends and families affected by, or concerned about, events in Ukraine.

You can find some of the questions we have been asked below and there are more questions and answers on how the Homes for Ukraine scheme will work on the GOV.UK website.

Your questions answered

I'm thinking of sponsoring, what do I need to think about?

Before you commit to sponsoring, it is important that you think through carefully what this will mean to you and your family.

A person, or family fleeing Ukraine will be living with you for a minimum of 6 months, needing access to a safe place to stay. You might be in a position to offer a self-contained property or a room in your home.

You should consider what having someone to stay for this length of time might mean to you and your family. It’s a huge commitment to make.

We recommend that you research the support that is available in your area – through organisations or charities, your friends and neighbours that will be useful when someone arrives. You may need to offer support to access services such as registering with a doctor or setting up a bank account as well as more specialist support.

You can find more information on what to consider.

How can I apply to sponsor a Ukrainian refugee?

Individuals can apply to sponsor a refugee or refugees on the government website – Homes for Ukraine. You must be able to sponsor them in your own home or in another property, for at least six months.

Do you have to know the refugee you want to sponsor?

In Phase 1, applications can be submitted by those who wish to come to the UK from Ukraine and who have named people in the UK willing to sponsor them. If you don’t have a direct connection, there are services that may be able to help.

You can find more information on the GOV.UK website.

How will the scheme be funded?

Households in the UK will be offered £350 a month ‘thank you’ payment to open their homes to refugees. We will administer the £350 payment monthly in arrears direct to named lead sponsors’ bank accounts. This sum rises to £500 a month once the guest has been in the UK for 12 months, and this payment continues for another year. If a host has more than one guest, and their arrival date is later than the first arrival, then £500 payments will be extended in line with the 12 month anniversary date of the last arrival.

‘Thank you’ payments are subject to all local checks being satisfactorily completed.

The named lead sponsor will need to apply for the ‘Thank you’ by completing an online form. You can only do this when:

  • The named lead sponsor has confirmed the accommodation is available for at least 6 months
  • Confirmation the guest has moved into the sponsor’s accommodation
  • The property checks have been completed and signed off. We will capture and verify this information on a central database

We will share the application process on this page, please check again for more information.

What rights will the refugees have?

Ukrainians welcomed under the scheme will be eligible to work, access state benefits and public services for three years.

Information on benefit support for those fleeing Ukraine

Financial support for those fleeing the conflict in Ukraine

DWP useful benefits information

Information for Ukrainian guests – Support and guidance and what to expect on arrival in Somerset

How can I find out about education provision near me?

Schools and admissions authorities have a set of admission arrangements and an admissions code that must by law be followed.

The in-year school admissions process must be followed.

Applications must be signed by family members with parental responsibility, and admissions authorities will not be able to accept applications signed by the sponsor. There will be some instances where the local school or schools are full. In these situations the local authority can provide information on alternative places within statutory walking distance. You can email enquiries to:

Statutory walking distances are 2 miles up to the age of 8 and 3 miles for aged 8 and over. Where it is not possible to offer a place within the statutory walking distance, transport will be provided to the nearest school with an available place.

Parents will also have the right of appeal if refused a school place at their preferred school.

  • For early help support – contact the Somerset Council Contact Centre on 0300 123 2224
  • For preschool children – you can find a form on the Finding childcare page. Sponsors will need to fill out this form and you will then be contacted
  • For children aged 16 and over – Contact Skill Up Somerset at SomersetWorks can also provide personal advice on finding a ‘post 16’ placement. You can make a referral here

You can find out more about getting a child into school or college here.

Are there any community meet-up groups?

There are a number of local community groups involved in Homes for Ukraine and we are looking at ways in which we can connect those arriving under the schemes. We will add information here as soon as we are able about these groups.

You can also find information about your nearest welcome hub here.

Who meets the refugees when they enter the country?

Sponsors are responsible for arranging transport to the accommodation when people arrive in the UK.

What local checks are required?

Those offering to sponsor a refugee will be checked by the government and Ukrainian applicants will also undergo security checks before they are matched with a host.

The Home Office and Department for Levelling Up, Housing, and Communities are responsible for the vetting checks that take place before guests are given permission to travel. Local authority checks will take place shortly before or soon after your guest arrives, but current guidance indicates that these checks should not determine whether a visa is granted.

If you are a sponsor who has been matched to a guest, the H4U team will email matched sponsors a link to complete an online form. This form will help us to book your property checks and to understand the needs of the person or family you are sponsoring.

You can find more information on the checks that will be made on the following pages:

What we will do when you complete the online Ukraine sponsor form

You can find out about the local checks we will complete on the information for sponsors page.

What happens at the end of the sponsorship period?

Stability is important for displaced people. A sponsored person should be part of discussions about what might happen next. If there are issues with a sponsored placement, it’s important that you notify the local authority so that the guest can be supported to explore the options available to them.

Do I have to provide food?

Sponsors are not required to provide food for guests, but some are asking what foods might make people feel more at home. You can find a seasonal list of food below that has been recommended by Ukrainian chef, Olia Hercules:

  • Fresh dill
  • Full-fat creme fraiche, sour cream or yogurt
  • Beetroot
  • Potatoes
  • Cabbage
  • Carrots
  • Onions
  • Garlic
  • Spring onions
  • Unrefined sunflower oil
  • Tinned tomatoes
  • Good honey
  • Sauerkraut
  • Fermented cucumbers
  • Twarog cheese (Polish shop)
  • Toasted Buckwheat (Polish shop)
  • Good rye bread (especially with coriander and caraway seeds)
  • Some fluffy white bread or sourdough
  • Good butter
  • Emmental or gouda cheese
  • Basmati rice
  • Mushrooms (fresh and dry)
  • Some mince (pork and beef)
  • Good chicken
  • Chipolata or other plain sausages
  • Kabanas sausages
  • Lardo, pancetta or streaky bacon
  • Red kidney beans
  • Frozen sour cherries
  • Camomile tea
  • Apples
  • Clementines
  • Lemons (Ukrainians have black tea with a slice of lemon, not milk)
  • Apricot jam or preserve
  • Raspberry jam
  • Some English biscuits
  • Good vanilla custard
  • Kefir or ryazhanka (baked milk yogurt)
  • White flour
  • Eggs
  • Full fat milk
  • Poppy seeds
  • Sunflower seeds
  • Pumpkin seeds
  • Frozen varenyky or pierogi dumplings (Polish shop)
  • Puddings – Victoria sponge or something similar
  • Some light beer or lager

What do I need to do to bring a pet to the UK from Ukraine?

The Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) and Defra are developing contingency plans to deal with a potential influx of dogs being brought into the country from Ukraine without their owners having been able to arrange for the necessary tests and paperwork to be completed. You can find more information here.

What should I know if I am considering crowdsourcing funds for Ukrainian guests?

We know that many people will be considering how they can support the needs of guests who are arriving, which may include financial donations. We have consulted with the DWP and they have advised that, if you are considering crowdsourcing funds, that the funds could be used for supermarket vouchers, material goods, or other vouchers. If funds are paid directly into a Ukrainian guest’s bank account or gifted to them directly, they may need to declare this to the DWP and this could have an impact on their Universal Credit application.

Are caravans, mobile homes and outbuildings deemed acceptable accommodation?

Caravans and outbuildings will generally not be acceptable accommodation unless they have the correct planning permissions, full amenities (including potable water, appropriate drainage and sanitary facilities, electricity and heating) sufficient space, thermal insulation and sufficient fire precautions. You can find out more about what you need to consider when offering a home here.