Wimbledon Volunteers Help Welcome Ukrainian Refugees

Council warns hosts to be patient as Homes For Ukraine scheme gets underway

Ukrainian refugees in Merton

Ukrainian refugees welcomed at Merton craft session

Volunteers in Wimbledon are at the heart of a drive to offer housing, advice and support Ukrainian refugees to Merton.

Refugees from the beleaguered country have already been welcomed into the borough through the Friend and Family scheme, which was the first scheme set up by the Government.

But Merton Borough Council says the first refugees coming to stay as guests in host homes in the borough, through the Homes for Ukraine project, are expected to arrive this week.

The Wimbledon Guild charity has already joined other organisations in the borough which has offered volunteers to staff the Merton Hub phonelines, which have been giving advice to potential hosts.

However the council warned on Friday (April 8) that some people offering to house refugees might still to wait before the schemes are running a full capacity.

They said: “If you’ve been following the news, you’ll know that the backlog of visa applications for the Homes for Ukraine scheme has continued to grow and the Home Office is diverting hundreds of additional members of staff to cover this unprecedented surge.

“To all the borough’s potential hosts who are still waiting to hear about your application, again, we can only apologise for your wait; your generosity continues to inspire us all and we ask that you hold on for just a little longer while the schemes get fully up and running.”

Meanwhile the Colliers Wood-based Polish Family Association has already been seeing refugees for “orientation appointments” to give information about issues such as applying for school places, obtaining a bank account and benefits, finding work and registering with GPs.

Last week there was also a drop-in event at the New Horizon Centre in Pollards Hill where refugees joined the East Mitcham lunch-club for a craft session (see above picture).

The council added: “We know that there is a lot of red tape for hosts and sponsors around the various schemes, so Merton Council will be running a webinar for them to discuss the challenges faced and to provide both material and emotional support to them as they undertake this rewarding experience.

“We are hoping to hold this meeting in the week commencing Monday 25 April; please email us at communications@merton.gov.uk for more details or to register for the event.”

Other organisations in the borough working alongside the council include Age UK Merton, the Salvation Army and the Commonside Trust.

The council has put a 'one-stop shop' for Ukrainian refugees in place, with the Polish Family Association and the Commonside Trust. This support is available to all Ukrainian refugees. 

You can contact the one-stop shop as follows:

Telephone/WhatsApp 07946 670 436

Telephone calls will be answered Monday – Friday 9am – 5pm

Email info@polishfamily.org.uk.

Appointments will be booked for Monday – Thursday 10am – 3pm. Information and advice will be provided in Polish and Ukrainian.

They will also run a drop-in café four days a week, where they will provide mother and baby groups, art therapy, gardening as well as a range of advice on transport, employment, health and good mental health, as well as running events where you can meet potential employers.

April 11, 2022