It’s been more than a month now that refugees have been arriving in the borough under the Homes for Ukraine and Friends & Family schemes, and scores of guests are now settled in Merton with more on the way.
There have been widely publicised teething problems with the national administration of both schemes which have sometimes impacted on our local offer, and we would again like to thank hosts for their patience around their guests arriving.
We have launched a site for hosts to register for the £350 monthly Thank-you payments from the Government: you can find it here and it is simple to sign up, you will need to provide digital proof of your identification.
As of this week, more than 100 property checks have been completed with more scheduled for this week – all sponsors have now been contacted and we are awaiting replies from a few people, so please check your inboxes for emails from us if you’re awaiting communication.
Almost 80 adults and children have now arrived via the Homes For Ukraine scheme, and all but a handful have been settled and have received their welcome payments. Get in touch with us via firstname.lastname@example.org if you need to chase anything.
Our colleagues at the Polish Family Association and on the Merton Hub continue to receive dozens of enquiries, with hosts and guests asking for advice on topics such as applying for National Insurance numbers, how to get biometric residency permits, and questions about Covid and Universal Credit.
We appreciate that hosts have been supporting their guests by attempting to resolve visa issues and helping them to apply for benefits, and we thank you for this.
Some of these processes can be very time-consuming and often require specialist knowledge that we wouldn’t expect them as hosts to have, so please link your guests to our colleagues at PFA and Merton Hub where they can access expert assistance.
As part of our adult and community education courses run through Merton College, we are now offering English for speakers of other language (ESOL): find out more on our adult and community learning pages.
We’d also like to give a massive thank you to everyone who attended the webinar for hosts held on April 26 as well as those who gave up their time to address the meeting.
Tom Underwood from Merton Citizens gave a personal account of what it was like to hosts refugees; Hannah Pearson explained the ins and outs of NHS access and Covid vaccinations; Naomi Martin from Commonside covered the community offer, while Irene Esposito and Kaja Polomska explained about what Merton Uplift is doing around trauma that guests may be experiencing.
Finally, we would also like to welcome one of the borough’s newest residents, Vlada, who was born just five days after her mother Iryna and grandmother Lesia arrived in the UK.