Slough Express

Smoothing path for new arrivals

Borough: Volunteers unite to help refugees from Ukraine

- By Adrian Williams adrianw@baylismedi­ @AdrianW_BM

An organisati­on set up in the Royal Borough is looking to become the first point of contact for people coming in via the Homes for Ukraine scheme.

Safeplaces RBWM started out as a matching service for Royal Borough hosts and Ukrainians but ran into a multitude of ‘frustratin­g’ problems that it had to work hard to resolve.

Now the organisati­on has grown and Ukrainian families have arrived, it is aiming to become a ‘frontline’ organisati­on, to take the pressure off both Ukrainians and the hosts receiving them.

It has been in talks with the Royal Borough and is hoping to form a good working partnershi­p with it, with a view to becoming the first point of call for advice and support.

Safeplaces will help with some of the more complicate­d aspects of settling in the UK, including setting up bank accounts and helping people get hold of benefits.

It will also seek to ‘bridge the gap’ in the interim, since setting up a bank account takes a week and benefits can take closer to a month.

The paperwork and red tape can be ‘a nightmare’, hence why Safeplaces feels it’s important to have a first point of call to help with these important processes.

“It just stops the stress of all the different department­s and the stress of all the families,” said Arti Sharma-Grey of Safeplaces RBWM.

The organisati­on has also joined up with Maidenhead rabbi Jonathan Romain, who set up a system to assist host families and support guests to resume a normal life.

Jonathan brings with him a ‘huge bank of volunteers’, said Arti – though Safeplaces is still on the lookout for more volunteers.

Now the organisati­on is in talks for funding and is looking for companies to support it financiall­y.

It is also ready to receive donations of items.

It has so far been donated school uniforms from Schools Direct and baby clothes from the Baby Bank.

“It’s early days but it’s starting to become a good community and that’s what we need,” said Arti.

To raise more funds, Arti – who is director of the interactiv­e storytelli­ng company Once Upon a Bus – will be at the Cookham Festival, which launches in about two weeks.

The themed bus will be at the Odney Club and tickets sold this week will go into Safeplaces RBWM.

The group is also expected to appear on Good Morning Britain on Monday, alongside families in Poland via video link.

Safeplaces has successful­ly set up a charity and now has a funding page.

Funds will help potential hosts get their homes up to scratch and can help with Ukrainians’ needs once settled in the UK – for example, English lessons or laptops for schoolchil­dren.

Find the Safeplaces Go Fund Me page at­rbwm

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