Super Sponsor scheme for Ukrainian refugees 'will not be restarted'

Over 21,000 people have arrived in Scotland from the war-torn country since the scheme was opened.

Super Sponsor scheme for Ukrainian refugees in Scotland ‘will not be restarted’, MSP Neil Gray confirms iStock

Plans to reopen Scotland’s Ukrainian super sponsor scheme are not currently under consideration amid huge concerns over permanent housing shortages.

Over 21,000 people have arrived from the war-torn country since Russian forces launched an invasion in February.

The programme, which allowed those fleeing the conflict to name the Scottish Government as their sponsor for a UK Government Homes for Ukraine visa, rather than find an individual host, was initially paused for three months in July due to issues over housing capacity.

Thousands of refugees are now living on cruise ships moored on the Clyde and Forth respectively, while others remain in temporary accommodation including hotels and B&Bs.

Hundreds of mothballed homes are to be brought back into use in Aberdeen as part of a £6m bid to increase available stock – following in the footsteps of similar schemes in North Ayrshire and North Lanarkshire.

But Neil Gray, the minister with special responsibility for Ukrainian refugees, said he needed to be sure councils and other services would have appropriate capacity before the scheme could be reopened.

“The Scottish Government does not want anyone to stay in welcome accommodation longer than necessary,” he told MSPs on Tuesday.

“It is clear that a settled home is a better, longer term outcome.

“So we will also set clear expectations that stays are short term and highlight support available to secure longer term, settled accommodation.”

In September, Gray said that the process of matching Ukrainians with appropriate sponsors in Scotland was “progressing slower” than expected.

A new campaign is set to be launched to encourage Scots to consider offering a place in their home to those in need.

However, other plans under consideration could see refugees in temporary accommodation asked to make a financial contribution towards their stay.

Gray said more than 2,790 people have now been matched into private homes, a process which took “time and considerable input”.

He said a review of the super sponsor scheme had been carried out by the chief social policy adviser, Professor Linda Bauld.

This had developed seven criteria which would need to be met in order for the scheme to reopen.

The review added: “As part of reducing dependency on hotels, we will set clearer expectations that stays are short-term and only until longer term settled accommodation is secured, with improved prioritisation of limited accommodation capacity for those most in need.

“With many arrivals now in employment or receipt of social security benefits, we will also consider the introduction of more formalised time-limits, adjust the provision of hospitality and/or seek contributions where appropriate.

“This will also promote alignment of the offer with guest experience in private host homes, as well as those living in other temporary rented accommodation.”

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