Cole-Hamilton sets out plan to improve Ukrainian refugee scheme
Originally published by Scottish Liberal Democrats
Following a meeting with former FCO official Duncan Spinner, who is working to get Ukrainians safely to Scotland, Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Alex Cole-Hamilton has today set out a series of steps that the Scottish Government should take to improve the Ukrainian refugee scheme.
Mr Cole-Hamilton is calling for:
- A fresh public call from Scottish Government for homes and hosts and better support for refugees in seeking permanent housing
- The extension of the discretionary travel scheme (free bus passes) to all Ukrainian refugees for at least their first year in Scotland.
- Increased support for local authorities to conduct disclosure checks of hosts, vetting of accommodation and matching of guests.
- Early identification of the skills of those arriving so that they can be matched with job opportunities and given the chance to contribute.
- Comprehensive language support, particularly around healthcare. We need to ensure that people are assessed for trauma and offered access to Covid vaccines.
Mr Cole-Hamilton said:
"When the war in Ukraine started, there was an outpouring of support from the people of Scotland.
"Unfortunately the collapse of the Scottish Government's super sponsor scheme and the slow progress in vetting hosts is causing big problems. It is not for want of goodwill but local authorities are just not assessing homes fast enough.
"Charities are warning of failed placements and a backlog of cases which means that people cannot get out of Ukraine.
"From speaking with Duncan, I know that he is astonished that so little work was done to match the ambitious promises made by the First Minister with action.
"The super sponsor scheme said "come here now" but there was a big gap between demand and the number of homes vetted and available. My wife and I know personally that it took months between signing up for the scheme and anyone from the council reaching out.
"These delays have led to tragic circumstances, like a family with a disabled mum who are forced to remain behind in Ukraine because she was accepted under the super sponsor scheme but it was cut off before her daughter could apply.
"Even when people do make it to Scotland, their problems are not over.
"The majority of refugees are arriving into Edinburgh but due to shortages of accommodation, they going through many short-term placements in hotels or being moved around the country.
"Social workers are trying their best but most have no knowledge of Ukrainian or Russian and little knowledge of the needs of refugees.
"There is an urgent need for solutions to these challenges.
"As well as making progress on housing and vetting hosts, the government should work with the Ukrainians coming into Scotland to make the most of their skills. Many of them are trained in social work, social care and medicine. They can help their fellow refugees in accessing services and in-time put their skills to work in Scotland.
"Finally, I know that some hosts have struggled with their roles and the lack of support that is provided to them. The government need to give host families more support and ensure that these are placements act as a trampoline to integrate Ukrainians into Scottish life.
"The generosity of the Scottish people towards those in need has been incredible. Now our government need to do their part."