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Ukrainian refugee families in UK four times as likely to end up homeless

Thousands of Ukrainian refugee families are at risk of homelessness this winter and are four times as likely to end up on the streets as other families in the UK, according to research from the British Red Cross.

A report by the charity and Heriot-Watt University, published before Wednesday’s autumn statement, calls on the chancellor to include extra funding for Ukrainian families to prevent a sharp rise in homelessness among this group.

The report found 6,220 Ukrainian refugee families are expected to have applied for homelessness support by the end of this financial year, a rise of 13% on the 2022-2023 figure. Almost 5,000 of those families are predicted to face “core homelessness”, such as rough sleeping, sofa surfing or being accommodated in a hostel.

Researchers found Ukrainian families were at far greater risk of becoming homeless than other families in the UK. A total of 298,430 families applied for homelessness support in 2022/23, 1.24% of all households in England that year. The four-fold risk is reflected across the UK, say researchers.

The research is published at a time of rising demand for affordable housing across the UK. Ukrainians are at particular risk of homelessness because of the risk of breakdowns of relationships with hosts, language barriers and difficulties in navigating the housing market.

To date, more than 192,000 Ukranians have arrived on the two main government schemes: Homes for Ukraine, where UK host families take in refugees, and the Ukraine Family Scheme, which allows Ukrainians to join family members settled in the UK.

Key recommendations in the report to avert a homelessness crisis among Ukrainians include:

  • Increase local housing allowance, which is used to calculate housing benefit rates, in line with market rates.

Viktoriia, who is being supported by the British Red Cross, fled the conflict in Ukraine and came to the UK under the Homes for Ukraine Scheme with her disabled mother and seven-year-old son. Relieved to be safe when she came to the UK, she was not expecting to face the threat of homelessness just six months later.

“I was worried we would be out on the street. I had no idea what to do. It is stressful because we don’t know what is going to happen to us next,” she said.

She was able to access support from her local council and the Red Cross to find a private rented property but is continuing to struggle. “We are not allowed to apply for citizenship, we are working non-stop, and we don’t know where our future is. After Covid and the war, we just want to be able to plan our future.”

Olivia Field, the British Red Cross head of policy and advocacy, said: “This winter we expect thousands of men, women and children from Ukraine to become homeless here in the UK. British Red Cross teams are increasingly seeing how difficult it is for Ukrainians to get the help and support they need to find long-term housing. They are often unable to meet upfront rental costs and can be excluded from local authority schemes that help prevent homelessness. We also know that many host families, who generously opened their homes, are now struggling to continue to do so due to the cost of living crisis.”

The government has been approached for comment.

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