Ukrainian Refugees (Support for Organisations)

– in the Scottish Parliament at on 8 September 2022.

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Photo of Sarah Boyack Sarah Boyack Labour

4. First, I echo the comments of the Presiding Officer and the cabinet secretary and say, on behalf of Scottish Labour and my colleagues, that our thoughts are with Her Majesty and her family today.

To ask the Scottish Government how much funding it is providing to third sector organisations in the Lothians that are supporting refugees from Ukraine. (S6O-01335)

Photo of Neil Gray Neil Gray Scottish National Party

First, I thank Sarah Boyack for her reflections, which, of course, we all share.

The Scottish Government has committed £1.3 million to the Scottish Refugee Council to increase its capacity and extend invaluable help and support to arriving Ukrainians.

The Scottish Government has also provided £48,000 to JustRight Scotland’s Ukraine advice service, where displaced people can receive confidential, free legal advice on safe routes to Scotland. Further, we are providing a funding uplift of £77,000 for Edinburgh’s third sector interface organisations, the Edinburgh Voluntary Organisations Council—EVOC—and Volunteer Edinburgh, to assist with their important work. I commend all the organisations across Edinburgh and the Lothians, such as the Association of Ukrainians in Great Britain and Help Ukraine Scotland, which are doing such phenomenal work on behalf of our guests.

Photo of Sarah Boyack Sarah Boyack Labour

The minister agrees with me that the volunteers and the voluntary sector are doing a commendable stretch of work to support the high number of people from Ukraine who have arrived in Edinburgh and across the Lothians.

Last week, I visited the Welcoming, a charity that supports new Scots who are making Edinburgh their home. The charity told me that the demand for its services has increased substantially and it has had to turn away Ukrainians staying in Edinburgh who needed to access its English language sessions. It also said that it is now receiving referrals from the Department for Work and Pensions, the council and service teams on the MS Victoria, but it has not received any additional funding.

Groups such as that one are providing front-line services, so will the minister commit to meeting with the range of third sector organisations that provide direct support on the ground to people who have fled Ukraine and ensure that those groups receive funding to continue their incredible work in what is an incredibly tough financial time for them?

Photo of Neil Gray Neil Gray Scottish National Party

Yes, absolutely—I would be more than happy to meet the groups that Sarah Boyack has mentioned, and I commend them for the work that they are doing.

There are a number of points to respond to. First, on English for speakers of other languages support, part of the funding that is going to local authorities relates to providing ESOL classes. It is up to each local authority to ensure that such classes are provided in the way that best fits their areas.

The Scottish Government has also been campaigning with the United Kingdom Government to uplift provision and to provide parity for Ukrainians with the ESOL provision that was provided—quite rightly—for Syrians and Afghans.

Of course, if there is more that we could do within the very tight financial situation that we are in, we will look to do that, but it would be useful for me to meet the excellent group that Sarah Boyack referred to, in order to hear more about its work.

The Deputy Presiding Officer:

As the Presiding Officer advised, I will come to the supplementaries at the end of this group of questions.