South Hams continues to stand with Ukraine one year on
24 February 2023
Since the devastating full scale Russian invasion of Ukraine on 24 February 2022, South Hams has welcomed 217 guests over 97 family groups.
In what has been a deeply unsettling year for the people of Ukraine, here in South Hams, several programmes and projects, led by the Council have been successfully embedded to ensure those displaced from the war, find a place of safety and support.
A dedicated Homes for Ukraine Team working across both South Hams District and West Devon Borough councils was formed in 2022 to ensure those arriving to the area in very distressing circumstances, have access to housing and the essential services they so desperately need.
The Government's 'Homes for Ukraine scheme has seen the Council providing a range of services to ensure suitable living arrangements which meet the immediate needs of those arriving. Support has included property inspections, welcome visits, and guidance for host families. Support from the Council has often extended past the initial six-month sponsorship and continues to this day.
Partnership working has been at the forefront of the Council's work in ensuring the Ukrainian community are being cared for. The Homes for Ukraine Team have spent the last year collaborating closely with community and voluntary groups to provide familiar and welcoming places where Ukrainian people can get the help they need. This work has been instrumental in opening up opportunities for employment, education, training, and volunteering.
With many Ukrainian residents arriving in South Hams feeling traumatised, isolated, and scared; mental health and making personal connections have been high on the Council's priorities. Events, support groups and workshops, commissioned through the Council for Voluntary Sector (CVS) have encouraged community spirit and offered respite from the troubling times. Many Ukrainians have brought their personal and professional skills to these forums and now facilitate or support these important programmes.
An extended service from Citizens Advice has meant that Ukrainian people have had the support they need with claiming benefits, jobs, childcare, education and immigration enquiries. This practical support has been key in ensuring the stresses of everyday life can be eased whilst coming to terms with the enormity of events.
The Council recently hosted a fun-filled event for 200 Ukrainian guests, including 40 children who have moved to the District since the outbreak of war. Held on Saturday 18 February at The Watermark, Ivybridge, the Council brought the community together with the help of its Homes for Ukraine Team, Citizens Advice and CVS. The Council Chairman, Cllr Lance Austen and other District Councillors supported the event by getting involved with fun activities with the children and talking to families and organisations about their experiences, and the work taking place throughout South Hams to support the Ukrainian community.
The wider community has also been working hard the past year to support the Ukrainian community as much as possible. Businesses, church groups, schools and residents have provided donations as well as much needed practical and emotional support.
Cllr Lance Austen, Chairman of the Council, said: "We join together today to pay tribute to our Ukrainian friends, here in South Hams and across the world who over the past 12 months, have faced the most difficult and unsettled of times.
"We also take this time to look back over the past year and reflect on the fantastic work being done to ensure our Ukrainian guests feel part of our wonderful South Hams community. Thank you to the organisations, charities and residents who have offered their homes and hearts to the people of Ukraine.
"As we look forward, our work is not yet done, and the future very much remains uncertain for our Ukrainian friends. Today is an important day to pay tribute to all those who have lost their lives or find themselves displaced. As a Council and community, we will continue to stand with Ukraine, now and in the future."