Central Beds Council ‘should use its reserves’ to support families already hosting Ukrainian refugees

Money from its reserves should be used temporarily now by a local authority to help families accommodate Ukrainian refugees in Central Bedfordshire, a councillor claims.

By Euan Duncan
Wednesday, 11th May 2022, 12:30 pm

Rather than wait until funding becomes available from government, Independent Potton councillor Adam Zerny says the cash allocation for Central Bedfordshire Council is needed already by those who qualify for payments.

"While the local authority's website proudly proclaims 'Central Bedfordshire stands with the people of Ukraine', CBC hasn't exactly been swift to stand with the local residents who have found homes for refugees," councillor Zerny posted on social media.

"There are more than 70 refugees in Central Beds involved so far, with a significant number of families incurring expenses.

The Ukranian flag. Stock image.

"After much public pressure, the government pledged money to support families hosting Ukrainian refugees in the UK," he explained.

"The plan was to provide £350 per host family in financial support to cover expenses incurred in boarding refugees.

"In addition, each refugee was to be provided with a '£200 interim payment to help with subsistence costs provided by the local council'.

"While it was made clear the emergency £200, in the form of vouchers redeemable at the Post Office, was to be provided by local authorities, host families were left in the dark about who was to pay the £350 per month.

"The council has acknowledged it will be receiving £10,500 from central government public money for every refugee hosted locally, yet none of these support payments have yet been made to host families.

"We began to hear from families which have taken in refugees and are suffering financial hardship as they cope with cost of living increases, combined with no sign of the payments from government or CBC.

"They rang the council and were told to ring the government, which said it was down to local authorities. The council has agreed it will make these payments to hosts, after all," he added.

"But families in need may have to wait a little longer as CBC has admitted that it still doesn’t have the ‘necessary checks and data collection arrangements’ in place to make the payments.

"Even though we’re now fully six weeks on from when refugees started to arrive, the council still can’t say when the payments will be made."

Councillor Zerny has written to CBC calling on "the payments to qualifying families judged to be in financial hardship" to be made immediately from CBC's "significant financial reserves".

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A council spokeswoman said: “We're extremely grateful for the overwhelming support from residents committed to providing a home for Ukrainian refugees.

"Since the government published guidance last week about how the £350 payment will be administered, we've acted quickly to put measures in place to ensure the safety of guests arriving from Ukraine.

“No central funding has been provided to CBC yet, under the Homes for Ukraine scheme. But now there's clarity on the funding rules we're required to follow, we can provide financial assistance and reclaim costs in arrears for the government.

“Accommodation and DBS checks have been completed, allowing all the matched guests arriving in Central Bedfordshire to do so securely. It's anticipated we can start issuing the first payments to sponsors this week.”

SOURCE: CBC statement and CBC councillor's social media post.