Ukraine Crisis and the VCSE Response

The Empowering Communities Partnership (ECP) is continuing to listen to and engage with the VCSE sector about the needs of all parties in regard to the Ukraine crisis following the war in the country to enable informed responses in this rapidly changing situation. On 12th April 2022 VCSE colleagues came together to hear updates on the Ukraine response from Norfolk County Council, and to share and discuss the challenges that the VCSE is currently facing, or are expecting to face, in responding to client’s needs. This was in addition to a West Norfolk VCSE Hub session on 6th April where VCSE’s working in West Norfolk came together to have a targeted discussion on the various global events impacting those in West Norfolk.  

The Norfolk VCSE Stakeholder Group is being used as an initial mechanism for sharing information, feedback and to continue dialogue to and from the VCSE sector, you can find out more about the group and how to join, here. We welcome VCSE colleagues sharing their feedback, questions and issues arising via this email to ensure ongoing dialogue and understanding of the local VCSE support offer across Norfolk and Waveney so we can support conversations with other stakeholders appropriately.  Collectively the Empowering Communities Partnership attend a wide range of regional and national meetings, such as the VCS Emergencies Partnership, which also enables us to feed into the design phase of national schemes using the local intelligence we gather.   

During the sessions highlighted above the following practical support for VCSE organisations and service users were highlighted which may be of interest to the VCSE sector: 

  • Norwich Consolidated Charities – will pay the INTRAN membership fee for organisations based in Norwich or those in Norfolk who have at least one client living in Norwich.  VCSE organisation’s will still have to pay each time they use an interpreter or language line.  INTRAN will be running some information sessions and webinars about translation and the different services they offer.   
  • Charities that need support for digital inclusion programmes can apply for free Vodafone SIMs, each loaded with 20GB data a month for six months, plus unlimited calls and texts. These can be used for example, to provide connectivity to service users or to deliver training to people in need. 
  • Nourishing Norfolk Network, which includes the new Breckland Mobile Food Store, will provide affordable, healthy and nutritious food and store cupboard staples at a reduced price, to rural areas of need in Breckland. The bus will be manned by a dedicated worker who can help address other challenges such as debt management, mental health and wellbeing.  There is also Norfolk Assistance Scheme. 
  • All Ukrainians coming into Norfolk are able to access Welcome Events at libraries and council offices (Covid-19 vaccination offer given low vaccination rate in Ukraine).  NCC are also exploring if Ukraine Family Visa holders could be referred-in to People From Abroad Team so that they can also receive a welfare visit and be signposted to appropriate support. 
  • Hanseatic Union and ACCESS Migrant Support are providing wellbeing support for those affected by the conflict in Ukraine. They have received funding from Norfolk Community Foundation to extend the support they can provide in the local community. 

So far, the following challenges and concerns have already been highlighted to us by a number of organisations:

  • Rurality issues given ‘rural’ districts having highest ‘host’ and ‘sponsor’ numbers and host households spread across different villages with no clusters, bringing additional challenges for individuals and communities around transport, loneliness/isolation, broadband connectivity and accessing services and accredited advice not usually delivered rurally.  
  • Access to interpreting support needs to be embedded consistently in local statutory services so that staff have confidence in offering and using this appropriately.  VCSE’s also need the ability to easily and affordably access appropriate interpreter and translation services in order to provide support.  
  • Recognising and addressing the trauma and mental health support needs of those from Ukraine, as well as those accommodating them.   
  • The need for clear, accessible information about, and support to, access the UK welfare benefits system, bank accounts etc., recognising the complexities around refugee documentation gaps.  While awaiting Universal Credit refugees, and those accommodating them, may face hardship and financial struggles.   
  • Importance of ensuring that all refugees and asylum seekers granted refugee status are equally able to access and benefit from the developments and support being put in place for Ukrainian refugees e.g. improved access to interpreting support, social and temporary housing.   

The following background data has been shared with us which may be of interest:

  • UN Refugee Agency research (published 16th March 2022 – click here for the full report) highlights that 88% of adults crossing the Ukrainian border are female with 91% of people crossing the border Ukrainian – 3% are Russian, 2% are Moldovan and 4% are of other nationalities.   
  • The Office of National Statistics (ONS) have released preliminary Census 2021 counts of country of birth by local authority for Ukraine and neighbouring or relevant countries, to help local and national emergency response planning to the Russian invasion of Ukraine. 

The following information has been shared with us in regard to the Homes For Ukraine Scheme which may be of interest.  We are working with statutory partners to address the lack of detail around demographics and geography and recognise the widespread concern regarding reliance on hosts to confirm guest/s arrival and the possibility this could be before appropriate checks leading to safeguarding, overcrowding and other issues. VCSE organisations can contact NCC directly with any questions or issues via 

  • Those involved in any of the visits required under the Homes for Ukraine Scheme can click here for the Official Resource Pack.  Please note each Council will take its own approach in how it fulfils the two visits which need to be carried out or what additional support they provide to the host or guest; this is at the discretion of each authority. The Homes for Ukraine scheme is still in the design phase, and with the unpredictability of a humanitarian emergency, such as the conflict in Ukraine, there remain unanswered questions at this present time. 
  • A recording of a Homes for Ukraine Sponsors Information Session run on behalf of NCC and Homes for Ukraine: sponsor guidance  

The following information has been shared with us in regard to benefits and Universal Credit which may be of interest:

  • The Department of Work and Pensions have announced people fleeing the war in Ukraine and arriving in the UK can claim benefits immediately following emergency regulations. To help new arrivals with applications, translation services are available for those making claims on the phone.  Find out more on GOV.UK or watch a social media explainer animation in English or Ukrainian.  People who sponsor a Ukrainian individual or family will not see their household benefit entitlements affected. Read the full statement 
  • Ukraine Family Visa (UFV) and H4U are both eligible for Universal Credit as soon as they arrive in the UK. Ukrainians should get an National Insurance number automatically allocated when they apply for Universal Credit (UC) and are exempt from the Habitual Residence Test. They need to apply for UC immediately on arrival, and should use their Permit to Travel together with their passport as their proof of ID and right to claim benefits – they don’t need to wait for their Biometric Residence Permit (BRP) to arrive.  Those who don’t have valid passports have to give their biometrics prior to entry to the UK and will therefore already have a BRP.  Ukrainians need to enrol for biometrics in Ipswich (no further pop-ups in Norwich) and should be able to access free appointments.  The key message is Do Not Delay in applying for Universal Credit.  Apply even if no bank account yet (enter Sort code 12-34-56. Account no. 00000000, three times to get past the error message), do not apply separately for an NI number, the UC process will manage this via the priority allocation route.  All refugees through H4U scheme get IT equipment from NCC.   
  • Complex and Vulnerable Needs Team Leader at JobCentrePlus Norwich – any Ukrainian National can apply for UC without the BRP.  Once they submit the claim, we will call them in the office to get the ID completed, then send off a form to apply for a Benefit Inspired National insurance numbers (NINo) application.  Once they get the NINO allocated we can then get them into payment and issue and advance.    
  • applies to “A person in Great Britain who was residing in Ukraine immediately before 1st January 2022, left Ukraine in connection with the Russian invasion which took place on 24th February 2022” who has been granted Leave to enter the UK or already has the right of abode.  Is exempted from the Habitual Residence Test as set out in the list of exemptions in Regulation 9(4) of the Universal Credit Regulations 2013.  Further info from Citizens Advice regarding this can be found here.
  • Click here for details of the various amendments / exemptions / emergency regulations to social welfare law in relation to people coming from Ukraine.
  • Click here for more information regarding Citizens Advice Help to Claim service. 

General Resources

  • Norfolk County Council information for hosts and their guests is available here
  • A safeguarding poster in Ukrainian is available here.  A infographic of how the NHS works (Ukranian) is available here 
  • ACRE has prepared a briefing outlining the role that village halls could play in aiding the reception and resettlement of refugees.
  • Information about Norwich City of Sanctuary and UEA as a University of Sanctuary, both part of a national movement building a culture of welcome for refugees and asylum-seekers.
  • The Church of England has published a ‘toolkit’ of resources for parishes seeking to help refugees and evacuees from Ukraine in the wake of the Russian invasion of the country.  The material, available online, brings together advice on how churches can welcome people arriving from Ukraine through giving, longer-term practical support such as community sponsorship, prayer and advocacy, as well as links to other sources of information including safeguarding.
  • Breckland Council’s page containing information for people affected by the conflict in Ukraine and for people who want to do something to help.
  • The Department for Work and Pensions has put together an info pack on support services and benefits available to Ukrainians arriving in the UK.
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