Ukrainian refugees (Picture: PA)
Ukrainian refugees are helped by the council to find new homes if their stay with a family in Swindon comes to an end.
But one community activist would like the local authority to add another string to its bow – acting as a rent guarantor for those looking for private rental accommodation.
Mike Bowden, co-chair of the Swindon Humanitarian Aid Partnership, set up to help Ukrainians displaced by war in their country, said: “As well as ferrying hundreds of tonnes of aid to Ukraine, SHAP is also supporting visitors Ukrainians in and around Swindon.
“Many accommodation deals end this month and it would be fair to say that the government has not been proactive in dealing with the housing crisis that is likely to result.”
Mr Bowden explained that some Ukrainians are in a financial position to consider renting private accommodation, but added: ‘As they cannot show 12 months of income in the UK, landlords usually require a guarantor for the rent. How is a Ukrainian visitor supposed to find a guarantor? It is simply unrealistic and unfair.
SHAP raised the issue with South Swindon MP Sir Robert Buckland and received a letter in response to a letter from Housing and Communities Minister Andrew Stephenson. He said: ‘To help clients access the private rental sector, some councils run schemes where the council acts as the rent guarantor for the household.
Mr Bowden said he had contacted Swindon Borough and Wiltshire councils over the matter. Swindon, he said, refused to do so.
But Mr Bowden urged Euclid Street to reconsider: ‘For those who see things only in books rather than human decency, the fact is that to vouch for the rent would be considerably cheaper than providing accommodation for emergency to young mothers with children.”
But Councilor Cathy Martyn, a cabinet member of the Health Inequalities and Housing Council, said: ‘The council is incredibly proud of its longstanding support for refugees and asylum seekers housed in Swindon. The borough welcomes more people arriving in the UK under these arrangements than any other local authority in the South West.
“Currently, thanks to various Ukrainian resettlement programs, 193 Ukrainians are accommodated in the city.
“The vast majority have entered into successful agreements with local hosts who have made their homes available to Ukrainian households fleeing the war zone. Additionally, with few exceptions, our hosts are renewing their commitment to continue hosting their existing guests.
“Unfortunately, in some cases hosting agreements have come to an end, but the council has managed to relocate these guests with new hosts.
“In the very rare exceptions where the municipality has provided housing as part of its legal obligations, it also offers assistance for the first month’s rent and the deposit.
“The council also ensures that school placements are available for children, that social benefits are in place where they are needed, that emergency aid for basic necessities is in place and that we are working with partners to maximize training and employment opportunities.
“In supporting our Ukrainian guests, we made welcome payments of £200 to each individual and an additional £350 per month to hosts for their expenses. In addition, to facilitate travel to essential appointments at the start of their stay, the Council also provides day bus passes.