It’s been confirmed this morning that over 89,000 people in the UK have signed-up to open their homes to refugees fleeing war in Ukraine.
The website for the dedicated Homes for Ukraine scheme was officially launched yesterday afternoon, and has reportedly crashed on several occasions as an impressive 1,500 people registered to offer support within just the first hour of it going live, according to Levelling Up, Housing and Communities Secretary Michael Gove.
In an address to the House of Commons this morning, Mr Gove said that the UK had a history of “supporting the most vulnerable during their darkest hours”.
He expressed his hope that many Brits would “open their homes” and accept Ukrainian refugees, adding that this act would help those fleeing persecution to find “peace, healing and the prospect of a brighter future.
Mr Gove said the new scheme would be based on “the enormous goodwill and generosity of the British public”, and said there’d be “no limit” to how many Ukrainians could enter the UK under the scheme.
“This is a huge humanitarian crisis, and we are urging the British public to come forward and help where they can,” Mr Gove said.
As part of the visa sponsorship scheme, any Ukrainian national or immediate family member of a Ukrainian national, if they were resident in Ukraine prior to 1 January this year, is eligible to enter the country, and they do not need to have existing family ties to the UK.
How does the scheme work?
The scheme offers a route to those who want to come to the UK and have someone here willing to provide them with a home, and will enable individuals, charities, community groups, and businesses to volunteer accommodation and provide a route to safety for Ukrainians, and their immediate family members who have been forced to escape their homeland.
Sponsors should provide accommodation for as long as they are able, but the government has a minimum expectation of six months.
Under the first phase of the scheme, offers must be made to a specific person or people, and charities and other organisations might be able to help those offering accommodation to make contact with a named person.
It’s been confirmed that checks will be undertaken on individuals offering to host refugees, but Mr Gove said full DBS checks would not be needed.
Local councils may also check that the accommodation being offered is appropriate.
Is there any financial support?
As confirmed last week ahead of the launch of the scheme yesterday, those who make an offer of accommodation to refugees will be entitled to an optional “thank you” tax-free payment of £350 per month, and this will not affect benefit entitlement or council tax status, such as single occupancy discount.
Those offering to house refugees will not be expected to cover the costs of meals, food and living expenses for Ukrainians, but they can do if they wish to do so.
Local councils will also be offered extra funding to give wider support.
Refugees from Ukraine under the scheme will be able to apply for benefits, take up employment, and will be granted leave to remain in the UK for three years so they have the access public services, such as the NHS and schooling.
How do I sign up?
You can sign up to offer accommodation to refugees fleeing Ukraine on the Homes for Ukraine website here.
If you have a named person who you wish to sponsor, then you should get in contact with them directly and prepare to fill in a visa application – which will go live on Friday 18 March – with all their details and yours, but if you don’t know anyone and still want to offer accommodation, the government suggests getting in touch with charities, faith groups, or local community organisations who are starting to make connections between individuals.
You can record your interest as an individual or as an organisation, and the government says all those who register will be “kept updated” once they sign-up.
Additionally, the British public are also being urged to make donations to the Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC), which has been set up in response to the crisis in Ukraine, with every pound donated by the British public set to be matched by the government up to the value of £20 million.
Teenager stabbed to death at house party in Leeds named, as murder investigation launched
A 17-year-old who was fatally stabbed at a house party in Leeds has been named by police, as a murder investigation is launched.
The victim has been named as Trust Junior Jordan Gangata, known to his loved ones as TJ.
TJ was fatally wounded in an incident at a house in Salisbury Grove, Armley, in the early hours of Sunday morning.
Four men have been arrested on suspicion of murder – an 18 year old man from Huddersfield, and three men from Bradford, one aged 18 and two aged 19. They remain in custody.
Senior Investigating Officer, Detective Chief Inspector Alan Weekes said: “Trust’s family are going through an incredibly difficult time, and we have specially trained family liaison officers supporting them.
“We are keeping them fully updated as we continue to progress the investigation into his murder, with the four men we have arrested remaining in custody.
“Trust’s family have asked that people respect their privacy as they try to come to terms with having him taken from them in such sudden and violent circumstances.
“We continue to appeal for anyone who was at the party where Trust was attacked and who has any information that could assist the investigation to come forward and tell us what they know.”
They wrote: “It is with great sadness to report that one of our Lower Sixth students, Trust ‘TJ’ Gangata, tragically lost his life in the early hours of Sunday morning. The College community is devastated by this news and we have him, his family, and his friends in our thoughts and prayers.
“Students, particularly his friends, will find this news very difficult to understand and accept. Our Achievement Tutors, Safeguarding Team, and College Counsellors are available to all who need support. The Chapel is also available for all who need a quiet space.
“Trust’s teachers described him as a “friendly, sociable, and kind student who always contributed positively in class”. Friends of Trust called him “hardworking, funny, and loyal” who was “a role model to his friends and always had a smile on his face”.”
A scene remains in place around the address in Salisbury Grove to undergo forensic examination and specialist searches.
Information can be given anonymously to the independent charity Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.
Featured image: West Yorkshire Police
RMT Union members ‘overwhelmingly’ vote to accept new pay offer
RMT Union has announced that its members have “overwhelmingly” voted to accept a new offer covering pay, jobs, and conditions.
In a statement revealing the outcome of the vote to accept the “improved offer” released today, the rail union said that 20,000 of its members voted by 76% to 24% in favour – which is said to mean the end of the trade dispute with Network Rail.
It comes after a series of strikes were staged over several months.
The offer voted in favour of includes an uplift on salaries of between 14.4% for the lowest paid grades to 9.2% or the highest paid, and a total uplift on basic earnings between 15.2% for the lowest paid grades to 10.3% for the highest paid grades – which represents an additional 1.1% over the duration of the deal, according to RMT.
Other “key factors” of the offer, according to RMT, includes discounted rail travel benefits for members.
The offer also includes increased backpay, and a renewing of the ‘no compulsory redundancy agreement’ until January 2025.
On top of this, RMT claims Network Rail will withdraw its previous insistence the offer was conditional on RMT accepting the company ‘modernising maintenance’ agenda – which the union will continue to “scrutinise and challenge”.
Reflecting on the outcome of the vote today, RMT General Secretary Mick Lynch said that when the Union first declared the dispute with Network Rail nearly a year ago, RMT was told that Network Rail workers would only get 2-3%.
“However, since then strike action and the inspiring solidarity and determination of members has secured new money,” he added.
“A new offer which has been clearly accepted by our members and that dispute is now over.”
Mr Lynch did, however, confirm that rail passengers will still face disruption from strike action scheduled for 30 March and 1 April, as they are still yet to strike a deal with the 14 train operating companies represented by the Rail Delivery Group.
“Our dispute with the train operating companies remains firmly on and our members recent highly effective strike action across the fourteen train companies has shown their determination to secure a better deal,” he explained.
“If the government now allows the train companies to make the right offer, we can then put that to our members but until then the strike action scheduled will take place.