My Lords, like so many of us, I am appalled by the Russian invasion of Ukraine. I will focus on the welfare of Ukrainian refugees, a subject no one has spoken about today. I declare my interest: the Loomba Foundation, of which I am the chairman trustee, has extensive experience of the impact of conflict in many parts of the world, particularly in driving up numbers of vulnerable widows and single mothers with dependent children and the massive upheaval this causes for families and communities. We have seen how this is the predominant feature of the Ukrainian refugee crisis today and we know the range of support that is essential for these mothers to create the stability they crave for their families.
I am deeply moved by the generosity of the British people, including those who have opened their homes to families from Ukraine. However, the current system the Government have put in place simply does not provide enough support for the vulnerable women and children arriving in the UK. In particular, those arriving on the Ukraine family visa scheme do not have enough protection. Some will have suffered terrible trauma and this may make it difficult for their families to cope.
We need to put measures in place so that, if their living arrangements break down, local authorities receive funding to match them with another family or provide alternative accommodation. We also need funding from central government to provide pastoral and mental health support for these refugees. We know that children, as well as adults, who have suffered trauma need the right help as early as possible so that they can start to build a new future in the UK.
The Loomba Foundation and other charities are doing what they can to fill the gaps and meet immediate needs. Barnardo’s, of which I am vice-president, told me about the case of a woman who arrived in the UK from Ukraine heavily pregnant and with just what she and her husband could carry. They came to live with family in the UK but did not have the basic things they needed for their new baby. Fortunately, Barnardo’s was able to give her all the things that new parents need, including a cot, nappies and clothes. Afterwards, the mother emailed Barnardo’s to say thank you. She said: “In this world there are more good people than bad. Thanks to you we are safe and have our little baby.”
As this example shows, charities can make a difference to the lives of vulnerable women and children arriving from that war-torn country, and we are currently finalising a partnership scheme whereby the Loomba Foundation will fund vouchers for Ukrainian refugee families to obtain essential items from any one of Barnardo’s nationwide network of more than 630 shops. Important as such measures can be for individual families, we cannot rely on charities alone to support the Ukrainian families and their British hosts, and I call on the Government to engage with us to help define the wider support that is needed and to provide due resources for it.