At ICOS, we are currently supporting 31 Ukrainian people living in Sunderland. We provide practical, often intensive support with benefits, school admissions, GP registrations, college registrations and dealing with official correspondence (e.g. letters regarding council tax). The Ukrainian refugees are completely new to the UK and the region and often struggle to understand the local systems and culture, while also dealing with trauma caused by the war. They need intensive and holistic support. At ICOS, we are currently supporting 25 Ukrainian people living in Sunderland. We provide practical, often intensive support with benefits, school admissions, GP registrations, college registrations and dealing with official correspondence (e.g. letters regarding council tax).
We also provide emergency material support to those in need, such as food vouchers and free sim cards.
We have additionally been providing Ukrainian people who are ready to move into employment with employability support, including help with CVs, job applications, accessing training and improving their English Language skills.
Combatting and preventing exploitation by some of the hosts – including requests for money and doing odd jobs around the house has also been something ICOS has been dealing with: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-tyne-61562167?fbclid=IwAR3KsOqEoxRYsRfgHahSsQLvPMH8cD6pcE8dCw0x0M-1e49swX-9kYGLKBo
We have also been providing support with integration and activities to improve their wellbeing, including those run as part of the women’s group, such as social outings and coffee mornings.
Additionally, we provide advice on cultural integration and local customs and traditions.
ICOS has been able to gain the trust of the Ukrainian community and currently employs a Ukrainian- speaking staff member:
Are you interested in our work? Read more about our support and clients stories below.
A family from Ukraine (a mother and an adult daughter) arrived in Sunderland early June and were placed with a host family. On Monday 20/06, the hosting family asked them to leave the property. That happened because the family had refused to clean the property and do odd jobs for the host family, as requested by the host family. The family then had to be moved to temporary accommodation (hotels) in Washington. The family still has no income, as they are still awaiting universal credit decision. They now have to be re-matched, change the address suddenly and also risk their documents going missing, if they are sent to an old address. The emotional effect on the family has been significant.
Two adult women from Ukraine live in Sunderland city centre and arrived in Sunderland at the end of April 2022. The host picked them up from an airport in another part of the country and has provided a lot of support to the family, including renovating the property. The host respects their privacy. They are now in receipt of benefits and both have now been able to secure part time jobs in the hospitality industry. The host even supported the Ukrainian women for an interview and bought bicycles for them and provided support with claiming benefits (although an ICOS staff member provides support at jobcentre meetings).
Ukrainian mother, aged 37, arrived in Sunderland 2 months ago. She has two sons, aged 10 and 13. Getting a school place for both of the sons was a struggle. Both of the boys got a school place 3 weeks later. Her younger son has settled into the new school but only later his mother found out that he was bullied. I work as a project trainee for ICOS and provide support and guidance to the Ukrainian families. The mother and I* had to go to school and speak to a year leader about the numerous bullying incidents. There was miscommunication between her younger son and a school staff member as he doesn’t speak any English and school failed to book an interpreter and they sorted the issue out only after our meeting. All this resulted in the mother applying for a school place at a different school. We can only imagine the effect of bullying on any child but the effect it makes on a child who flees the war and in a foreign country is just unimaginable. This situation has also brought even more upheaval into the life of an already vulnerable family.
*Olena Davis, the ICOS project worker supporting Ukrainian families.