Devon County Council, alongside Team Devon colleagues and partners, have made considerable progress this last week contacting several hundred potential sponsors to conduct and complete required DBS checks.
In addition, working with councils across Devon, we have developed and implemented a property and people appraisal process. District councils have started to check a range of sponsor properties using this, and this will accelerate the work this week.
There has been considerable national commentary regarding the delays in people able to arrive in the UK, including their visa application status. I would stress that decisions regarding visas and travel are not connected to the local work that Devon are undertaking and people will travel to the UK when granted permission by the UK government. DBS and housing safety checks can be completed post-arrival and are not part of the visa application process.
Devon County Council is working with partners to ensure we can make early payments to sponsors and guests and alongside this, we are developing clear processes regarding school admissions, health registration and access to Universal Credit and other benefit entitlements.
We have a shared microsite https://www.devon.gov.uk/supporting-ukraine/ which is evolving rapidly as we get clarity on the latest guidance and information for guests and sponsors.
Last week we documented the process and information for sponsors, this week the priority is information for guests, in the form of an online ‘welcome pack’. You should consider this site the definitive source of key information relating to the scheme in Devon. We are considering launching a joint, Team Devon, single telephone number for enquires with organisations from the voluntary and community sector. Further, we are currently in negotiations with several organisations to provide a consistent and comprehensive offer of wrap-around support, across each locality in Devon. An update on both aspects of this will be available later this week. In the meantime, if you have key questions that you would like an answer to, there's a dedicated e-mail address email@example.com.
We will be building on and further developing ESOL (English for speakers of other languages) provision in Devon for this community and how best we can link key organisations providing support to local speakers for translation, alongside large providers of telephone and internet-based translation options.
The immediate support to people fleeing conflict will continue to be a complex and significant challenge for councils, statutory agencies and voluntary and community sector colleagues in the weeks ahead. However pleased to say that Devon has already developed a considered and agile response, which will however need to continue to evolve and adapt.