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Homes for Ukraine: The foster families who have taken in refugees

Homes for Ukraine: The foster families who have taken in refugees

Homes For Ukraine

In February 2021, Mr Horner and his partner fostered a 15-year-old Afghan boy and last month he took in another 16-year-old Afghan boy who was a friend of the first child

The government’s “Homes for Ukraine” scheme will see people in the UK hosting refugees in their homes for a minimum of six months. But while welcoming the move, some of those who have provided a home to refugees in the past are concerned about whether those arriving will get the support they need.

Fostering refugees has changed Philip Horner’s life for the better, he says.

The 58-year-old lives in Brightlingsea in Essex and works part-time as the operations manager for Refugee Action Colchester.

In February 2021, Mr Horner and his partner fostered a 15-year-old Afghan boy and last month he took in another 16-year-old Afghan boy who was a friend of the first child.

“We knew they got on well,” he says. “It was always a concern whether living together would cause extra frictions but actually they have rediscovering a childhood that they’d lost.

“They just have a good time. They’re both now doing cricket practice in the local town ready for the new season.

“They laugh constantly, one of the nicest things that happened shortly after the first one came is that I could hear him singing.

“He was singing because he was feeling safe.”

“We knew they got on well,” he says. “It was always a concern whether living together would cause extra frictions but actually they have rediscovered a childhood that they’d lost.

“They just have a good time. They’re both now doing cricket practice in the local town ready for the new season.

“They laugh constantly, one of the nicest things that happened shortly after the first one came is that I could hear him singing.

“He was singing because he was feeling safe.”

His first foster child talks to his family in Afghanistan once a week, but the other has had no contact since he left.

Both lived in areas where the Taliban were taking boys of their age to recruit them so their families thought it was the best thing for them to leave.

Mr Horner said the second boy in particular had witnessed severe brutality.

“Both were suffering to varying degrees post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD),” Mr Horner says.

“Both had sessions with counsellors. And I guess this is one of the concerns about the Ukrainians coming here – whether we will have the capacity to support individuals who need it because it is quite difficult at the moment.”

Mr Horner wants to know what support will be available for those women and children who will be suffering trauma.

The government is offering hosts £350 each month to offer a home to Ukrainian refugees and says councils will get £10,500 for each refugee in its area.

Philip Horner at home on his settee with a dog
Image caption,Mr Horner says he is concerned that while the scheme will provide a home for the Ukrainian refugees it might not meet their “other needs”.

Mr Horner says he is concerned that while the scheme will provide a home for the Ukrainian refugees it might not meet their “other needs”.

The government told the BBC it was working closely with local authorities and says Ukrainians will be able to access healthcare, including mental health support, on the same footing as UK nationals.    

The Department for Levelling Up, Communities and Housing says more detailed guidance will be given to sponsors shortly.

Mr Horner says he would like to see support workers attached to each family, in case of problems with hosts or vice versa.

“But I’m not holding my breath on this.

“What worries me is the fact that we still have thousands of Afghan families still in hotels seven months on,” he says, “and in theory there have been some organisations that have been supposed to support them into housing, but it’s not happened.”

“I thought my role was to provide a safe environment, but it has become very much like a full family feeling,” he says.

“We go out together, we do things together, we’re just aware there’s more people in the house in a positive way.

“Things like hearing them laugh, seeing them suddenly do a somersault in the middle of the cricket pitch because they’re happy, it’s great seeing that happiness.”

Source: BBC News