A small number of Ukrainian individuals and families have arrived in Devon, or are expected to arrive in the next few days, as their Visas are granted. And local communities and the authorities are ready to welcome them.
"We know that more than 300 people in Devon have so far put themselves forward as sponsors, and are matched with people now applying for Visas," said Councillor James McInnes, on behalf of the Team Devon partnership of local councils.
While Devon resident 'sponsors', who have offered up accommodation under the government's ‘Homes for Ukraine’ scheme are preparing to welcome refugees, Team Devon councils - which include Devon County Council, all Devon’s District and City Councils and the Devon Association of Local Councils - have been making sure their preparations are in place.
There has been an amazing response across Devon to help people in need, through donations to the Disasters Emergency Committee's Ukraine Humanitarian Appeal, offers of support, and people stepping forward to host refugees," said Councillor McInnes.
Once sponsors are matched with a Ukraine citizen or family, and the government is processing their Visa application, the Home Office passes sponsors' details to Devon County Council.
The County Council is carrying out Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) checks of all adults over 16 in the hosts' household, alongside checks regarding vulnerability and safeguarding, to ensure that people and families arriving from Ukraine are safe.
District Councils are also checking sponsors' accommodation to make sure the property that people are moving to is safe.
DBS checks and property checks are not a requirement for issuing a Visa, or associated permission to travel," said Councillor McInnes. "Those checks can be completed soon after any Ukraine nationals arrive. They're already underway, and we're moving through them as fast as possible, prioritising where families have already arrived or are about to arrive."
Local councils though are not told by the government when people arrive, so Team Devon will be asking sponsors to inform them of arrivals, so that they can make contact and offer additional support.
The councils launched a website containing all the latest guidance and information for Devon residents who want to help, through donations or offers of accommodation. And it includes information for Ukrainian guests as they arrive in the county.
The website include key information for sponsors and guests about the Home Office process, alongside other local information such as how people can access schools, health services, and any financial support," said James McInnes.
We will be keeping those webpages up to date with new information and guidance as it's released by the government."
Visit the Team Devon website, at devon.gov.uk/supporting-ukraine