Working in partnership with Citizens UK, the Diocese of Chelmsford is supporting people in churches across our Diocese to host guests from Ukraine throught the Government's Homes for Ukraine scheme.
This page provides regular updates and information about how you can get involved.
An Update from our Communites for Ukrainians Support Team Co-ordinator, the Revd Andy Griffiths
We have now welcomed 53 Ukrainian guests to the UK through our hosting hubs, and given hospitality to several hundred guests and hosts through our social hubs. Thank you so much for your part in this.
We don’t push for stories, but we’ve been hearing them anyway. Like the baby born by emergency C-section just a couple of days after her mum arrived with her hosts (one of the hosts was the birthing partner), or the guest who said she hadn’t slept properly for 5 months (when she got to the Essex coast, she slept through the night and woke for lunch), or the guest who fled westwards as the Russian forces advanced from the east behind her, passing through each station on the last train as the infrastructure shut down and the platforms were closed.
Meanwhile, Diocese of Chelmsford Churches have formed “social hubs” where hosts and guests can come and network, regardless of how the matching took place. As guests become more comfortable in the UK and find jobs, and hosts are reassured, some of the hubs are finding less demand for what they offer; though others are finding new life as places where hosts and guests can organise to address the authorities about the scheme. We have put in multiple freedom of information requests to local authorities, and Bishop Guli has asked multiple questions stemming directly from the hubs in parliament.
The Revd Canon Andy Griffiths
A hosts story
Myra writes: “Our involvement with Ukraine started when Paul (my husband of 55years) and I sat in our Frinton home and watched news of the war in Ukraine on our television. We were horrified by the images and talked about the whole situation, feeling very helpless in the face of such brutality going on in Europe.
“Then we saw the advertisements for ‘homes for Ukraine’ and decided to join the list. Having realised we were not going to be allocated anyone I trawled Facebook but felt uncomfortable contacting anyone through this medium. About this time we realised there were two other families in church going down the same route, so we contacted them and heard about the scheme through the Diocese. It was through the Diocesan resource group, that we were put in contact with Lena and her young son Misha. Initially we met through zoom then exchanged texts and finally met them at Luton airport.
“The first month was taken up with forms, phone calls, interviews and other admin, in claiming Universal Credit, opening a bank account, registering with the GP etc as well as introducing Lena and Misha to our family, friends and the local area and resources. Paul and I had visits from the local authority housing department, social workers and health visitors, and an enhanced DBS check. Lena, Misha and I visited local mother and toddler groups from which Lena chose two to attend regularly. Paul took her to Essex Integration ESOL classes in Colchester where he teaches, and Lena now attends English classes there each week. She also found time to visit London, found her way round Colchester and locally, and has made her own friends here too.
“Lena’s partner, Igor, was living and working in the Netherlands, so she went to visit him too, coming back asking if we knew of anyone who could sponsor him nearby. She found someone herself, through a contact at a mother and toddler group, and three weeks ago Igor moved to England. Through meeting Lena we have made some good local friends who are also hosting Ukrainian families, we have got to know a little about Ukrainian culture, cooking, their language, Lena’s family and the effect of the war on them. Lena and Misha have fitted into our family so well, and we now have an extra grandson and a new daughter! We share the cooking and making cups of tea, we play with Misha and read him stories and we are getting to know a young man who already has got himself some work and is a really good cook!”
A guests story
“Hello, my name is Lena. I have a little son Misha. We are Ukrainians in Great Britain. We came here in the end of July. It was a hard decision to leave our country, home, relatives, friends, everything we love and to go to a country we haven't been before. We decided to leave Ukraine after some weeks hiding from rockets in the basement, after four months of evacuation in Western part of the country.
"Why United Kingdom? This country is very friendly to Ukraine and Ukrainians and also it gives an opportunity for mothers and little ones to live normal life, that was important for me. We found here family, a lot of smiles and support from people around. Thanks to British Government, to Citizens UK, to Diocesan resource group, we met Paul and Myra, our British family. I don't like the word "sponsors". Paul and Myra are more than sponsors for us, they are our Guardian angels.
"Since our arriving they take care of us, they brought us into their family, support in any steps, we did a lot of paperwork (which turned out to be not as difficult thanks to Myra's and Paul's help), they spend a lot of time with me and Misha. We can cook together, watch TV and news, visit different events, do shopping, play with Misha. We even have got our own traditions like shared tea-times and dinners or English cartoons for Misha every evening. I discovered that my English is not bad and I try to improve it visiting language classes (where Paul is one of the teachers). I fall in love with English cuisine and I try to share with Ukrainian recipes, I made new friends. In our area there are also some Ukrainians, with who we also became friends.
"Misha takes new steps in his development every day, he understands English as well as native language, he visits local mothers and toddlers groups, has got some new friends, rejoices in every new discovery and has a happy childhood.”
Support our hubs
Our parish hubs would welcome the support of other parishes and worshipping communities across our diocese and particularly those who are nearby.
There are many ways that support can be provided, from offering the use of a church building for occasional communtiy activity to fundraising and financial support. If your parish or worshipping community is interested in offering support to one of our hubs, please email our Communities for Ukrainians Support Team Co-ordinator, the Revd Andy Griffiths at email@example.com
Rent A Room Scheme
We’re starting to think about the next step for our Ukrainian guests, after their 6 months (or, more frequently, 12 months) of sponsorship. For some, renting a flat or house on the private rental market may be feasible, but for many, this will be unaffordable. This is why we are asking churches in the Diocese to let their members know about a government scheme.
Under the Rent a Room Scheme, homeowners (and sometimes tenants) can become “resident landlords”. This means they have let out part of the property that is their only or main home. Resident landlords can earn £7,500 per year tax-free under the Rent a Room Scheme; the lodgers are entirely responsible for their food. The resident landlords can give less notice to end a letting than if they rented out the property as a whole. Note that a landlord cannot use the scheme for homes converted into separate flats or for unfurnished accommodation. If you’re on Universal Credit, any money you get from sub-tenants and lodgers under the Rent-A-Room scheme will not be counted as income up to £7,500. More information can be found here.
Of course, it’s a big thing to rent out part of your home to a person or family, especially because, unlike in a standard tenancy, no deposit is charged. However, while we cannot provide any guarantees, we can introduce potential resident landlords to Ukrainian guests, who by now speak English, are usually in employment, have access to the housing component of Universal Credit if needed, and have hosts who know well what it’s like having them in their homes and would gladly tell you about their experiences. Discuss it with your church community, and then contact us and we’ll do our best to connect you with an existing host and guest.
Dear Lord, you blessed us with new life
by crossing the borders of heaven and moving into our neighbourhood.
Your parents fled with you from violence,
carrying you in their arms in hope-filled fear.
We still our hearts:
help us know you are with us, making your home in us,
being yourself, in the presence of us being fully ourselves.
We act for justice and mercy:
help us see in those we host, and those who welcome us,
your image, valuable beyond words,
and your blessing that will bring new life.