Helen Hodgson, co-founder and operations director of Hope at Home, a national hosting scheme for survivors of modern slavery and human trafficking, explains that welcoming vulnerable people into your home requires preparation, resilience and understanding and that’s why she’s concerned about the government’s “Homes for Ukraine” scheme.
In four years that Hope at Home has been operating we have trained more than 60 hosts and provided almost 5000 nights of safety for survivors. Our hosting scheme took years to set up and ensure safeguarding, appropriate training and support for hosts with safe matches with guests. While I understand the need for urgent support for Ukrainians fleeing war, I have serious concerns around the “Homes for Ukraine” scheme proposed by the government.
We know that Traffickers prey on vulnerable people, particularly those fleeing war or persecution. The opportunity for exploitation in this scheme is enormous. Without proper checks on hosts but with the promise of the £350 per month ‘thank you payment’, exploiters will be rubbing their hands together in glee. The government have not yet outlined the types of safeguarding checks they will be carrying out, but it feels like a very ‘holey net’ which organised crime groups will be able to slip through easily.
The opportunity for exploitation in the “Homes for Ukraine” scheme is enormous.
In our hosting scheme, we provide training for hosts around trauma, safeguarding and vicarious trauma in order to prepare them to welcome a guest who has experienced such difficult situations. Once a guest is placed, we continue to support the hosts with peer-group sessions, extra training and a listening ear. If a placement breaks down, we are there as backup to ensure guests can be moved on safely.
Welcoming someone who has experienced trauma into our homes is no light decision. It requires preparation, resilience and understanding. Burnout is a risk. I wonder where the training and support for hosts is found in this scheme and what are the Ukrainian guests going to do if hosts can no longer host them? Where will the back-up come from? It is naïve to expect that Ukrainians will fit into a British home effortlessly and those opening their homes need to be made aware of the realities of hosting.
Welcoming someone who has experienced trauma into our homes is no light decision. It requires preparation, resilience and understanding.
Part of our safeguarding process is ensuring our hosts and guests are well matched. Under the first roll-out of the scheme, Brits can only welcome a Ukrainian they already know. Who is make checks that this is the case? Once the second stage begins and Brits can host a stranger from Ukraine, who will make these safe matches?
The lack of clarity around the details and infrastructure of this scheme means it could be disastrous both for inexperienced and unsupported hosts as well as for vulnerable guests.
Safe routes for all those fleeing war and persecution are needed urgently. They should not be required to apply for a visa and they should not need to cross dangerous waters in small boats. Once asylum seekers are safely here, we need a safe, fair and just asylum system which treats people as human beings.