People displaced from Ukraine - interviews: summary report

Key themes and observations from in-depth interviews with people displaced from Ukraine living in Scotland and their hosts.

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3. Key Themes and Observations from Interviews with People Displaced from Ukraine (Guests)

Introductory observations

All guest interviewees had arrived via the Homes for Ukraine visa pathway; just over half were sponsored via the Scottish Government super sponsor scheme, the remainder had been sponsored directly by a host. Most interviewees were living in either Host or Welcome Accommodation at the time of interview. The majority were female. Almost half had travelled to Scotland with dependent children.

Interviewees were asked a variety of questions about their experiences in Scotland so far (including their experience of temporary accommodation, public services, job seeking and employment), about the information and support they've received (and require) to help them with life in Scotland, and their future intentions and the factors influencing these.

Participants regularly reflected on the warm welcome they'd received in Scotland and expressed gratitude for this.

The interviews illustrated how needs, preferences and priorities vary and are dependent on guests' unique situations, contexts and preferences.

While interviews with guests did not directly explore participants' experience of trauma, nor the impact of this, as highlighted above, a number of hosts who were interviewed observed their guests to be in need of emotional support as a result of the traumatic events they had experienced, often perceiving them not to be receiving adequate support for this. Some guest interviewees volunteered that uncertainty about their situation had negatively affected their wellbeing. In some cases, this uncertainty was exacerbated by inconsistencies in information and advice given, and/or delays in and lack of transparency about decisions affecting them.

Coming to Scotland

Existing English language skills and a perception Scotland would offer a safe place with opportunities for them (and for parents, for their children) were common reasons participants gave for choosing to come to Scotland.

Some interviewees found the visa application process straightforward; others had relied heavily on (informal) support to apply. ONS reported that around half of current and previous (50% and 47%) Homes for Ukraine Scheme sponsors experienced difficulties with the visa application for their guests, including the language barrier and issues with (or knowledge of) required documents.

Support to settle into life in Scotland

While many reported positive experiences of Welcome Hubs and had found the immediate support they provided helpful, long waits and limitations in support provision due to opening hours and staffing levels were also reported.

For those in hosted accommodation, the host was often their main source of support to settle into life in Scotland. Reflecting the findings above from host interviews and the ONS Sponsor Survey, participants in hosted accommodation reported receiving extensive and wide-ranging support from their hosts, including administrative, practical, financial, emotional and social support.

The quality and consistency of support and information provided by official/formal sources of support varied. Some had received confusing or conflicting information about what public services they could access and how. This had resulted in delayed access to healthcare and social housing in some instances, as well as misaligned expectations about what to expect from these services. This indicated a need to improve communication of how things work in Scotland and what guests can typically expect.

Experience of public services in Scotland

Scotland was compared favourably to Ukraine in terms of transport links and education, but less favourably in terms of the speed of access to public services (health and dental care in particular), opening bank accounts and internet speed.

Participants' experience of health and dental care in Scotland did not always align with their expectations. Some had chosen to travel abroad for health and dental care, with one travelling back to Ukraine for this.

All interviewees who mentioned school provision had had positive experiences with local schools in Scotland, including finding registering their children straightforward. At a UK-level, ONS found 20% of displaced people from Ukraine with dependent children who responded to their survey had experienced difficulties registering their children for school.

Experiences of Host and Welcome Accommodation

Participants' accommodation experiences, needs and preferences, varied greatly. The more complex the family unit (characteristics and composition) the more challenging it was for participants to find hosted, temporary, and settled accommodation that met their needs.

Host accommodation was meeting the current needs of some, but not all, participants in terms of space, privacy, freedom and provisions. Those reporting insufficient space/privacy had travelled with their children or pets. The relationship with and support from hosts was highlighted as a benefit of hosted accommodation.

Many participants had been living in Welcome Accommodation longer than they had expected. The interviews highlight how the challenges of living in temporary accommodation – such as inadequate space and lack of control over environment; lack of amenities for storing and preparing food and restrictive meal times/choices; difficulties in securing a job while in temporary accommodation - become more significant over time.

For many participants, being hosted has been a positive experience overall and has been a useful mid-term route into settling into Scotland.

The nature of relationships with and support received from hosts have the potential to strongly influence guests' experience of life in Scotland. While these interviews report overall positive experiences, some also indicate the potential for over-reliance on hosts.

While participants were grateful for the accommodation they'd received, securing greater choice and control over their living arrangements was a priority for many.

Experience of seeking employment

Many participants were in some form of employment at the time of interview. Around a similar time, ONS found 52% of people displaced from Ukraine in Scotland that responded to their survey to be in employment.

English language skills and childcare responsibilities were highlighted as two of the main barriers to securing employment in Scotland. Challenges finding suitable childcare were also highlighted as a barrier to accessing English language training as well as subsequent employment.

Some participants reported finding it difficult to gain employment in their chosen field. Barriers to this included: qualifications not being recognised and/or English language competence.

Most participants had undertaken some form of English language classes; ONS found that 64% of respondents in Scotland had attended English language courses. Some participants felt they would have benefited from more intensive English language training than they had accessed so far.

Securing employment was important (and a priority in some cases) for many guests, although it had also made it harder for some to access support to help them adjust to life in Scotland and support trauma recovery.

Future intentions

Uncertainty about the war and the feasibility of returning meant not all participants had thought about the future or find it easy to do so.

Many participants reported intending to stay in Scotland for the meantime with some intending to stay a number of years. Finding employment and affordable, independent accommodation were priorities for many. ONS found that of UK hosts whose guests are planning to move out, 69% are planning to move into independent accommodation, while 11% are planning to return to Ukraine. 64% reported affordability as a major barrier to their guests securing housing; a concern also commonly expressed during interviews with guests and hosts.



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