Christmas is here and once again charities are turning their attention to those who may find themselves without a safe and secure place to call home over the festive season. But this year there is a new group of vulnerable people joining those who are homeless, or under threat of becoming so.
Back in March, the Government launched the Homes for Ukraine programme, and reassured by the offered help of £350 per month towards expenses, thousands of people signed up to take in refugees from the war. But that was before the current cost of living crisis kicked in, and many of these hosts are now having to rethink their hospitality. Former Refugees Minister, Richard Harrington, had been lobbying for the host payment to be doubled in light of increased pressure on household budgets, but, although there are some initiatives from individual local councils, as yet there is no commitment from central government, and analysis of data by Barnardos, among others, suggests that there could be as many as 50,000 Ukrainian refugees looking for a new home by the end of this coming Winter.
Helen* and Irina*
“I just wanted to help” says Helen, “As I hope somebody would help my loved ones if we were ever in that situation; and I was excited to welcome Irina and her little boy, Artem*, into my home. It’s been such a great experience for us and we’ve been getting along so well, but recently I’ve been really struggling. My utility bill has tripled and my mortgage is going through the roof. And my self-employed wages have taken a hit since the pandemic! I knew I simply couldn’t afford the cost of having two extra people living in the house.”
“We went to Citizens Advice together to see if there was any help available. The adviser took me through an online benefit check, and I discovered I was entitled to a top-up on my wages of Universal Credit – not much, but it meant I was also then entitled to two cost of living payments which will be very welcome!”
For Irina, Citizens Advice provided an interpreter and signposted her to a local Ukrainian Job Fair.
“Now that Artem has started school, she is able to commit to some part time work in a local café and thinks she may now be able to help out with some of the bills. She’s also got an appointment at Citizens Advice in a couple of weeks to talk through her housing options and help her apply to the housing register. Artem is growing so fast and they won’t be able to share my spare room forever! But at least we may have avoided an immediate crisis this Christmas!”
*not their real names for reasons of confidentiality
If you recognise Helen and Irina’s situation, or if you are struggling with the cost of living, or find yourself threatened with homelessness for whatever reason, why not contact Citizens Advice to see how they could help you? Call Adviceline (details below) or drop-in to your local bureau.
Citizens Advice Waverley contact details:
Leave online message
Tel Adviceline 0808 278 7980 (freephone) to speak to an adviser
Self help – search our national site by topic
South West Surrey Domestic Abuse Outreach Service contact details:
Tel 01483 898884, Email email@example.com
Visit our website
Citizens Advice Mole Valley contact details:
Contact East Surrey Domestic Abuse Services on 01737 771350 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Surrey Domestic Abuse 9am-9pm Helpline – 01483 776822
In an emergency always dial 999
Citizens Advice Reigate and Banstead contact details:
Phone Adviceline: 0808 278 7945 (free) to speak to an adviser (Monday – Friday 9.00 – 16.00)
Email: Use an enquiry form
Self help (website)