On 18 March 2022, the UK Government introduced a new visa scheme called the ‘Ukraine Sponsorship Scheme’ (also referred to as ‘Homes for Ukraine’). Ukrainian nationals and their family could now apply for a three year UK visa, but only having first secured sponsorship from an eligible UK resident able to provide accommodation.
The Scottish Government took the decision to act as ‘super sponsor’ in its own right so that applicants could select the Scottish Government as sponsor, receive a visa and travel immediately without the need for private sponsorship arrangements to be found first. This option, designed to be accessible and safe, removed entirely the requirement for those fleeing war to seek out a sponsor, for example, on social media.
Following a significant increase in new applications, and against a backdrop of continued pressure on short-term accommodation from pre-existing visa-holders, on 11 July the Scottish Government announced there would be a three-month pause to new applications and the scheme closed on 13 July.
The Minister with Special Responsibility for Refugees from Ukraine then instructed officials to conduct a rapid review of the scheme with a focus on sustainability and longer-term accommodation, and to develop a set of criteria against which any plan to re-open the super sponsor scheme to new applications could be objectively assessed. The outcome of this review was published on 01 November 2022.
The review was led by the Chief Social Policy Adviser, Professor Linda Bauld, with broad engagement from subject matter experts across local government, the third sector (for example the Scottish Refugee Council) and academia (for example the Chair of ‘New Scots Core Group for Refugee Integration’). The review also benefitted from the lived experience of recently arrived Ukrainians.
The outcome of the review is 16 specific interventions aimed at improving the performance of the existing scheme, and a set of seven criteria, also developed with support of key stakeholders, to ensure any future plan to reopen is safe and deliverable.
The interventions range from clearer information and support, additional investment in social housing and innovative alternatives such as modular housing, as well as action to reduce barriers to employment and the private rental sector. The review team noted that many of the more innovative interventions have potential well beyond Ukrainian communities, for example, responding to homelessness and could leave a housing legacy beyond Ukraine.
By working with partners to design and implement the 16 specific interventions identified by the review of the super sponsor scheme, we aim to improve the performance of the scheme, empowering those arriving with clear advice, support and improved access to longer-term housing options thereby reducing dependency on welcome and temporary accommodation.
The 16 interventions are:
1. Improved Clarity in Pre-Arrival Communications – Immediate
2. Refined Arrival Script and Communications – Immediate
3. Strengthening of Matching – Immediate
4. Social Housing – Immediate
5. Scotland Call for Volunteers – Short-term
6. Greater Emphasis on Employability – Short-term
7. Local Welcome – Short-term
8. National Approach to Re-matching – Short-term
9. Refinement of Accommodation Offer – Short-term
10. Warm Welcome Grant – Medium-term
11. Private Rental Assistance – Medium-term
12. Self-matching Infrastructure – Medium-term
13. Modular Housing – Medium-term
14. Approach to Matching – Medium-term
15. Headlease Scheme – Longer-term
16. Research and International Best Practice – Ongoing
Who will it affect?
The interventions outlined in the review will have a direct impact on displaced people from Ukraine who already have or plan to move to Scotland under the Super Sponsor Scheme. It will also affect the communities in Scotland in which displaced people from Ukraine live in, including local services, businesses, employers and members of the public.
What might prevent the desired outcomes being achieved?
Due to the broad nature of these interventions, an array of circumstances could prevent desired outcomes being achieved. For example, increased communications will need to be fully accessible, for example in community languages and in different formats, so that they reach the intended communities, the £50 million fund will need to be advertised and accessible so that councils can make bids, and resettlement teams will need to be sufficiently funded and upskilled to strengthen the rate of resettlement.
Availability of suitable housing also remains a key challenge, especially in areas like Edinburgh where the social and private rented sectors are already saturated. Demand for housing in areas like Glasgow and Edinburgh is also high among displaced people.
In addition, the visa application process is fully reserved to the UK Government and dealt with by the Home Office. This means that we are restricted in terms of decisions we can make beyond the initial three year visa period, particularly in terms of longer term funding arrangements to support for wider integration within our communities.
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