THE long-term support for Ukrainian refugees in Oxfordshire remains uncertain, councillors have been briefed.

A presentation outlining how the county has responded to the Ukraine crisis was delivered to Oxfordshire County Council’s Performance and Corporate Services Overview and Scrutiny Committee.

The briefing was designed to update the committee on the Government’s Homes for Ukraine scheme and broader lessons learnt for responding to future crises.

READ ALSO: Councillors to decide if gender-neutral bathrooms will be put in all council buildings – including libraries

The Homes for Ukraine scheme opened on March 18 for visa applications from Ukrainian applicants with named people in the UK willing to sponsor them.

Four days later, the county council held its first programme meeting, with Ukrainians beginning to arrive in early April.

Ian Middleton, county councillor for the Kidlington South division, asked at the scrutiny committee meeting: “It does feel like we’re dealing with multiple emergencies, one after the other – do we need long-term resources on this?

“Are we looking at a situation where they return to Ukraine at some point or whether there’s long-term settlement involved?”

Oxford Mail: Woodstock held a vigil for Ukraine, in March. Picture: Ed NixWoodstock held a vigil for Ukraine, in March. Picture: Ed Nix

Robin Rogers, the council’s programme director for the response to Covid-19, delivered the presentation to councillors and addressed Mr Middleton’s question.

He said: “We really are still a few weeks after starting this. In terms of next steps, we don’t know what’s going to happen in Ukraine.

“The feedback nationally is that people want to go home – of course, they don’t know what they’re going home to, so there’s a significant element of uncertainty.”

Oxford Mail: A sculpture in Broad Street, showing support for Ukraine. Picture: Ed NixA sculpture in Broad Street, showing support for Ukraine. Picture: Ed Nix

The county council has been responsible for managing all funding and Ukraine budgeting needs.

The presentation delivered to councillors stated: “Building on the Covid-19 response, the multi-agency response was able to stand up quickly, with well-rehearsed structures and good relationships already in place.

“The Ukraine response further evidenced that an ‘urgent needs’ inter-agency response capacity is required for medium to long term ‘rising tide’ events beyond the time period managed through traditional emergency planning arrangements.”

Mr Rogers added: “There’s a regular bulletin which goes to host families, and we’ve made that information as available as possible.

“We were receiving guests within weeks of the initial announcement. It was hard work to get the payments out, but we did it.”

READ MORE: Tourism industry in Oxfordshire remains in precarious position, report warns

The council has worked with east Oxford charity Asylum Welcome, with Mr Rogers saying: “We’ve funded them significantly, they brought in senior staff as well as operational staff.

“We recognise it’s not for us to pass it over to them – we’ve increased the scope of our teams.”

Donna Ford, county councillor for the Bicester North division, asked how the education system would cope.

Mr Rogers responded: “There are children already in schools, we expect that to increase significantly after the holidays.

“The really positive element is that schools have really wanted to do this.”

Read more from this author

This story was written by Liam Rice, he joined the team in 2019 as a multimedia reporter.

Liam covers politics, travel and transport. He occasionally covers Oxford United.

Get in touch with him by emailing:

Follow him on Twitter @OxMailLiamRice