Jane Hutt, Minister for Social Justice
As we approach the year anniversary since Homes for Ukraine and the Welsh Government Super Sponsor route opened, I want to update Members on our plans to continue to support people fleeing the war and support those already in Wales to move into longer-term accommodation.
The Welsh Government budget, which was passed in the Senedd last week, outlined £40m of investment to support people from Ukraine settling in Wales in the next financial year. When the UK Government announced reduced funding before Christmas, I committed to work closely with our local government partners to re-evaluate our strategy to ensure support could be provided to all those who need it. The allocation of this funding underlines our ongoing commitment as a Nation of Sanctuary to integrate those we have already welcomed and resettle those who are still to arrive.
Since the start of the full-scale invasion by Putin’s Russia, 6,500 have escaped and found safety in Wales. This has been a huge Team Cymru response to a terrible and ongoing conflict. I want to put on record my thanks to all our partners for their continued support. A critical part of this success has been the enduring and inspiring support of Welsh households who have opened their doors and their hearts to those in need.
Among the ways the £40m budget will be spent includes £2.5m to allow local authorities to increase ‘thank you’ payments from 1 April to people in Wales hosting Ukrainian guests – up from the current £350 to £500 per month – from the point checks are completed until the end of the first 12 months in the UK. The UK Government announced an increase to £500 per month but only from the 12th to the 24th month after arrival. This is unique to Wales following the disappointing settlement offered by UK government and recognises the enormity of hosts’ huge contribution, as well as the impact the unprecedented cost of living crisis is having.
The emphasis over the next year will continue to be a Team Cymru approach to helping Ukrainian guests move into longer-term accommodation. Just over 1,500 have already settled in longer-term accommodation. Although £30.8m support will continue to be made available to support guests staying in initial accommodation we will progress with the phased move on of guests from our initial accommodation into longer-term accommodation during the new financial year.
While the UK Government has chosen to make a cut in vital funding needed by local authorities to levels far below what can be mitigated, we’re determined to support councils to help everyone who needs a home in Wales.
We continue to work with local authorities, social landlords and partners to increase capacity of high-quality accommodation options, including generating more host accommodation, and we will shortly embark on a new campaign to encourage more hosts to come forward. We also continue to work with local authorities to support and increase access to the private rental sector for all those in housing need and are working with Rent Smart Wales to encourage landlords to make their properties available.
Given the wider housing pressures and the positive impact Transitional Accommodation Capital Programme funding has had in delivering good quality housing at pace, with the support of Plaid Cymru further funding has been made available, taking the total to £89m in 2022-23. This will see over 1,300 additional homes delivered within the next 18 months to support our aim to ensure everyone in Wales has access to suitable accommodation.
That is why we will provide £2m to support move on, providing local authorities with funding to help Ukrainians into longer term accommodation and provide targeted support for more complex cases.
Just under £2m will also be available for councils to provide discretionary support such as education, language lessons and employability programmes to create more personal independence and help people to integrate. Councils – who know their local needs best – will be given flexibility in how to use the money on a case-by-case basis.
I am pleased to report the extension of the Welcome Ticket for free transport into the next financial year, and discussions continue about further support. This remains an important part of ensuring guests are supported to settle in Wales. I have allocated up to £100k in principle to support development of a longer-term plan.
It is vital that we maintain our focus on support in Ukraine as well as the support provided to people who have sought safety and sanctuary in Wales.