New drive for Congleton 'Homes for Ukraine' help as war nears first anniversary

By Alex Greensmith

5th Feb 2023 | Local News

A Ukrainian flag outside Congleton Town Hall last week. (Image - Alexander Greensmith / Congleton Nub News)
A Ukrainian flag outside Congleton Town Hall last week. (Image - Alexander Greensmith / Congleton Nub News)

There has been a renewed drive for Congletonians to sign up for the 'Homes for Ukraine' scheme, or volunteer to help local Ukrainians, as the war turns one this month.

Congleton Town Council recently invited local hosts in the UK Government's 'Homes for Ukraine' visa scheme to an evening reception at the Town Hall.

The hosts which attended have or will soon get Ukrainian people, mostly families with children, living with them under the scheme as Ukrainian's continue to flee the war in their homeland.

Despite the war's anniversary being on February 24, 2023, there are still people who need to flee or are seeking refuge.

Cllr Kay Wesley spoke of her experiences as a host. (Image - Congleton Town Council)

There are 74 host families in the Congleton area who have been 'matched' with more than 175 Ukrainian guests, making a total community of over 400 people.

The evening included a number of talks and Q&A sessions, with hosts able to share experiences and learn from each other as well as from experts.

Cllr Kay Wesley, Chair of the Community & Environment Committee of Congleton Town Council, welcomed the group of almost forty with: "I am also a host, or I was until today.

"it has been our pleasure to host Oksana, Sasha and Denys for the last 8 months. Today we moved them into their own new home, and it felt like our own children leaving home again – a mixture of sadness that they are going and joy that they have their own place and can make their future here in the UK."

IT worker Paul Nixon has dedicated the past year of his life to helping out Ukrainians get matched with host families and getting them settled. (Image - Congleton Town Council)

Across Cheshire East, Congleton Nub News Freedom of Information Request data has revealed 659 Ukrainian nationals have moved to Cheshire East since March 18 2022.

Data on a breakdown by ward e.g Congleton East will be released in mid-February. Congleton Nub News is set to chase these figures in the coming days.

Paul Nixon, Director of the Congleton Area Ukraine Support Network (CAUSN) explained options for guests to move into their own rented property at the end of the hosting period, and the support that CAUSN can offer with furniture and moving assistance. He also appealed for more volunteers to support this effort, as many families are now getting ready to move house.

According to GOV.UK, across the UK the Ukraine Scheme visas issued to people is 217,900.

Nadiia Holovchuk and Sarah Spicer. (Image - Congleton Town Council)

Sarah Spicer, an English teacher, explained the differences between English and Ukrainian and gave some tips and guidance for helping guests learn English, a major enabler to getting work and their own home. Nadiia Holovchuk, a Ukrainian guest and also a teacher, then led a short fun training session of Ukrainian words and phrases to help hosts communicate with their guests.

The response from the group was very positive. Joyce Halsall attended the event and said: "It was really useful and informative, plus it was good to catch up with other hosts." Alex Davis, a volunteer with CAUSN and a host, added: "Well done everyone – lots of useful information to take home and help our guests - and ourselves."

The CAUSN group has been supporting Ukrainian guests and their hosts ever since the scheme started, and has run a number of outings and social events such as trips to the Blackpool Illuminations and Formby Beach, theatre trips and a Ukrainian Christmas party in partnership with Congleton Town Council. Ukrainian guests have made friends in the area, most of the parents are now working and the children have settled into local schools.

The UK have been at the forefront of Ukraine's support in the Russo-Ukrainian war. (Image - Alexander Greensmith / Congleton Nub News)

Clare Sheard, another local resident involved in the hosting scheme summed up one of the benefits of the event, saying: "It was a really useful and enjoyable evening. My guest Natasha, nearly fell off her chair when I said 'dobroho ranku' to her this morning!"

Hosts can still get a payment from Westminster for participating in the programme.

A £650 million support package was recently announced by the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities to support the HFU scheme.

Congleton: If you would like to volunteer or make a donation, or to learn more about being a host, please visit the Congleton Area Support Network website.

See Also: Co-op increase funding for community groups providing 'warm spaces'


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