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Prue Leith: Ukraine refugee hosts will give up if they don’t hear news soon

Dame Prue Leith said she fears potential refugee hosts might ‘give up’ if they don’t hear from officials soon (Mark Bourdillon/Love Productions/PA)
Dame Prue Leith said she fears potential refugee hosts might ‘give up’ if they don’t hear from officials soon (Mark Bourdillon/Love Productions/PA)

Potential hosts for refugees from Ukraine will “give up” unless they are contacted by officials soon about their offers to help, Dame Prue Leith has said.

The Great British Bake Off judge said she registered her willingness to take in those in need last month under the Government scheme, but has heard nothing since.

The Homes for Ukraine scheme launched on March 14, with the aim of allowing individuals, charities, community groups and businesses to bring Ukrainians, including those with no family ties to the UK, to safety.

About 12,000 people had arrived in the UK under Ukraine visa schemes as of Tuesday April 5, according to Home Office figures.

Some 10,800 people had arrived under the Ukraine family scheme but only 1,200 had made it to the UK as part of the Homes for Ukraine sponsorship scheme, provisional data published on the department’s website showed.

Writing in the Daily Telegraph, Dame Prue said: “We’re ready and willing to take in Ukrainian refugees – so where are they?

“We have a log cabin with two bedrooms, underfloor heating – and all mod cons. We registered our willingness to take refugees the day after the website for the Government scheme first went live.

“That was in March. Weeks ago. Since then, apart from an automated acknowledgement, we’ve heard nothing from government or council. No-one has quizzed us about our (or the cabin’s) suitability, or shown any signs of matching us with any Ukrainians. Instead we’ve been bombarded with screeds of guff about how well the system is working, and appeals for money from refugee charities.”

She said there “must be thousands of would-be hosts like us”, adding: “And some will just give a sigh of relief and give up. To have a stranger living with you is a big risk, and I’d have thought we’d be encouraged – or at least kept in the loop.”

She said she and others in her neighbourhood have been thinking about what help they can give, including English lessons, playgroups and parents’ coffee mornings, to help people settle in.

But Dame Prue added: “But all our enthusiasm will fade if the powers that be don’t tell us what is going on – if anything.”

On Friday, Home Secretary Priti Patel apologised “with frustration” after coming under fire over “delays” in the time it is taking for Ukrainian refugees to arrive in the UK.

But she denied visa requirements and checks are slowing the process and causing delays, insisting the UK will “absolutely see changes in numbers” as work continues.

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