Given the groundswell of support for the government’s Homes for Ukraine scheme, a steady stream of refugees will soon be arriving on our shores.
However, if we are to truly help those facing an unimaginable crisis, then we must be able to provide more than an initial warm welcome, however heartfelt it may be.
Sadly, the grim reality is that for Ukrainian refugees, their stay in this country will likely be long term. As such, they will need the tools not only to exist in safety, but to rebuild their lives and to thrive as part of our communities.
There is no doubt that providing suitable accommodation is key to achieving this. Across the housing and property sector, we fully appreciate that a decent home can be the catalyst towards fulfilling dreams and ambitions. As such, the government has taken an important initial step by launching Homes for Ukraine.
However, a safe and secure home cannot be the end goal in and of itself for those escaping Ukraine. Many housing associations, such as MTVH which I head, provide a vital range of programmes to support residents including care and support, employment advice and community engagement initiatives.
Residents are not simply given a home; they are empowered to enrich their lives. We know that business will be keen to play their part too and have the people and the jobs to help.
Ukrainian refugees will need more than just a physical building to call home
For refugees, this broader outlook is especially important. Those arriving from Ukraine will need to find employment to become self-sufficient, they will need to be able to navigate the health service and they will need access points to the community around them. They will need more than just a physical building to call home.
Moreover, they will be arriving in the most tragic of circumstances. Inevitably, many will require help to process the trauma that they will surely be suffering.
The unique needs of refugees and migrants is something that our Migration Foundation at MTVH has been addressing for more than a decade. Crucially, the foundation provides not only sanctuary, but helps these people access the legal and emotional support required to rebuild their lives. In this spirit, MTVH recently signed up to a pledge by London business leaders to employ refugees.
It is this type of holistic approach that is so desperately needed as the UK grapples with how best to help those arriving from Ukraine. Long-term solutions must be developed and instituted.
Inevitably, the passage of time will see the plight of Ukrainian refugees fade from the limelight. We saw this with the Afghan crises. Once this happens, they must be left with much more than simply the means to survive. We must therefore harness the existing collective resources and expertise of the whole property sector, government and beyond. Failure to work together towards long-term solutions would ultimately damage the very future of the people we all so want to help.
Geeta Nanda OBE is chief executive of Metropolitan Thames Valley Housing and chair of the G15 group of London’s largest housing associations