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Jane Hutt – November 2022 Update on Ukraine

The statement made by Jane Hutt, the Welsh Minister for Social Justice, in the Welsh Parliament on 22 November 2022.

Diolch yn fawr, Llywydd. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to provide an update to Members about our ongoing work to support people from Ukraine seeking sanctuary in Wales.

When I last updated you in October, Wales had welcomed just under 6,000 Ukrainians under the Homes for Ukraine scheme, including under our supersponsor route. Arrivals have continued at a slow but steady pace, and just over 6,100 Ukrainians sponsored by the Welsh Government and Welsh households had arrived in Wales by 15 November. There have been additional arrivals under the Ukraine family scheme, but we are not given that data by the UK Government.

More than 8,450 visas have now been granted to people from Ukraine who have sponsors in Wales, so we can expect the number of arrivals to continue to grow. We are mindful that events in Ukraine can have a direct impact on the number of Ukrainians who may arrive in Wales, and although we have seen a small number of individuals seeking to return to Wales after a period back in Ukraine, we are not seeing a significant change at present.

I was very disappointed not to see any clarity in the autumn statement about the financial future of the Ukraine schemes. We have repeatedly called for funding parity between the Homes for Ukraine scheme and the Ukraine family scheme and the Ukraine extension scheme. We urgently need confirmation of year 2 and 3 funding to support the delivery of public services, as well as continued and uplifted host ‘thank you’ payments. The latter would ensure hosting arrangements can continue despite cost-of-living impacts.

Without certainty around future funding, Welsh Government, local government and Welsh hosts are all facing difficult choices about the support we can provide to Ukrainians seeking sanctuary. We hope the UK Government will provide this clarity quickly. In response to my letters to UK Ministers about these issues, I am pleased to say that I heard from the new lead Minister for Homes for Ukraine, Felicity Buchan MP, last week. Despite this uncertainty about the finances, a meeting has been convened for Thursday with the Scottish Government Minister, Neil Gray MSP, and myself, regarding our financial position.

We remain focused on supporting people into longer term accommodation, so that they can have more settled lives. Over 700 Ukrainians being supported via the supersponsor route have now moved on from initial accommodation, over 500 of these within Wales, either with hosts, in the private rented sector or in other transitional and longer term housing. However, the wider pressures on housing across Wales mean that we cannot support people into longer term accommodation as quickly as we would like. We will therefore, continue to urge potential hosts to come forward and register an interest at Hosting provides swift, flexible and cost-effective accommodation that enables people to regain some independence and to integrate with local communities. We know that some individuals and families have come forward to offer their homes and are still waiting to become hosts. I’m very grateful for their generosity. We are working closely with local authorities and Housing Justice Cymru to help support the matching process. But we still have nowhere near enough hosts to accommodate all who need support. We would also urge those thinking about hosting to visit Housing Justice Cymru’s website and join an introduction to hosting seminar to find out more.

I’d like to focus the rest of this statement on an important commemoration that we discussed in this Chamber in May. This November marks the start of the ninetieth anniversary of the Holodomor in Ukraine. This was the man-made famine that caused millions to die and was bravely exposed to the world, in part, by Welsh journalist Gareth Jones. The debate in May was an important reflection on those events and we committed to commemorating the event in Wales.

On the fourth Saturday in each November, Holodomor is commemorated internationally. We will be organising an event at Alexandra Gardens in Cardiff, alongside so many other important memorials to peace. The event will include participation by me, the First Minister and Counsel General, local government, religious leaders, and the deputy ambassador of Ukraine to the United Kingdom. Ukrainians will be invited to attend and we will lay wreaths to remember those who suffered during previous actions perpetrated by a government in Moscow. After the commemoration, we will promote Holodomor remembrance on our social media channels to try to raise awareness further. Last week, we also wrote to hosts across Wales to ensure they knew about Holodomor and encouraged them to discuss plans with their guests.

Putin’s current atrocities in Ukraine are part of a longer term pattern of aggression against the people of Ukraine stretching back many decades, and marking Holodomor in this way shines a light on this. Gareth Jones, the journalist from Wales, writing about the man-made famine instigated by Stalin made clear that the affected Ukrainians did not seek pity and he remarked upon their fortitude. I think we can all see those characteristics on show in Ukraine again today. And whilst we honour the resilience and courage of the Ukrainian people in the face of Putin’s aggression, we also reaffirm our commitment to help Ukrainians here in Wales to record their knowledge of war crimes committed in more recent times.

Through the founding of Donetsk and the reporting of Gareth Jones, as well as the more-than 500 Ukrainians who called Wales home before this conflict, our countries had several threads that connected us. Now, we are home to probably more than 7,000 Ukrainians and those many threads between our peoples bind us together more strongly than ever. I know all Members will join me in expressing Welsh solidarity with all Ukrainians on the anniversary of Holodomor.