When the conflict arose in the Ukraine, the team at Courteenhall wanted to reach out and provide what support they could, using the resources they had.
Last month, The Courteenhall Estate welcomed a Ukrainian family of 4, who had fled the conflict with only one suitcase between them and the clothes on their backs. Having left everything behind to start a new life, the family are settling in really well, putting so much trust into the team at Courteenhall to support the process.
Our Property Manager, Philippa Fitzgerald wanted to share her insight and some top tips to help others who are considering hosting a refugee family:
The number 1 consideration is to factor in how much time and resource you need to dedicate in facilitating the transition between the Ukraine and the UK as well as the process of securing visas’. Phillippa explained how the application process was far from straightforward, and parts needed translating. She spent hours back and forth with the Home Office on email and phone in order to support the administration.
The biggest frustration is the disparity in the law for driving licences. As an experienced qualified HGV driver and having gained employment before entering the UK as a HGV driver, because Ukraine is not in the EU, the gentleman in question is unable to drive a HGV in the UK. This was not made clear until after arrival into the UK and is now having more hurdles to overcome before being able to work.
The problem is that the UK does not have an agreement with the transfer of Ukrainian HGV licences and so as a result, we are having to exchange the Class A & Class B part of the licence, which takes at least 4 weeks to administer. After this the gentleman will have to undergo training and testing to add Class C to his licence. The theory test will have to be taken in English, which is not his first language.
This is a process that will cost time and money. Most Ukrainian refugees are not going to have the resources to facilitate this and seems crazy when the UK is crying out for HGV drivers.
Facebook messenger was a big help and allowed her to communicate quickly with the Ukrainian family. What was most confusing was the fact that the whole family had to complete separate applications, including each child, and this wasn’t clear throughout the process and caused several delays.
Think about how a family may travel from the Ukraine. They might need money for flights and will certainly need picking up from the airport and bringing to their new home.
You need to make a house a home and work out what is needed. The family didn’t know where they were coming and had left all their belongings behind. Thanks to donations from the staff team, the house was furnished, correctly sized clothing gathered, a food shop was co-ordinated and toys/ presents were gifted for the children, helping to make the move that bit smoother.
Starting a new life in a foreign country can be stressful. Philippa supported the family with securing a bank account, National Insurance numbers, school places for the children as well as school uniforms, driving licence as well as registering at the Doctors and Dentist.
Friendship and community
Many Facebook groups have popped up since host families have begun to welcome Ukrainian families. Philippa found that by joining a few local groups, she was able to share her experience and also link several Ukrainian families together for social activities, which has aided transition into the local community.
Reach out to your local MP. Having written to the local member of parliament after jumping over a few hurdles, this helped to speed the process up in welcoming the Ukrainian family to the UK.
Should you wish to find out more information on hosting a Ukrainian family, visit: https://www.gov.uk/register-interest-homes-ukraine