As at mid-June 2022 there were just under 400 refugees from Ukraine – adults and children – in the London Borough of Merton under the different visa options.
Merton – the local council – has been speedy and effective in response to the crisis – one of the quickest responses in London if not in the country. They set up a working relationship with Polish Family Association (PFA) and Commonside Trust to set up the Ukraine Refugee Hub based in the New Horizon Centre, in the east of the borough in Pollards Hill. PFA advisers provide face to face and telephone support in key areas four days a week with at telephone service on Fridays.
Additional support for UK-based host families and in providing cash support is provided by Wimbledon Guild, also in partnership with the Council.
The most frequent requests at the Ukraine Refugee Hub have been for help with obtaining a National Insurance Number, opening a Bank account in the UK, acquiring the Biometric Card from the Home Office, help with food and English classes (ESOL). 50 people are enrolled on English (ESOL) Classes, held two days a week at the Hub and run in partnership with Merton Libraries. There is a weekly programme of activities in addition to the advice service, details are in the Merton Ukraine Refugee Hub Leaflet we have created. Funding has been provided by Merton Council as a part of the Government’s Ukraine programme.
We are particularly proud of our integrated craft sessions held weekly with other local seniors, and the fun we have all had with Kamila Dyczko creating Easter and Spring decorations.
New Ukrainian life in-borough
Our first Merton Ukrainian baby was born at the end of March – baby Mark.
A second baby was also born in the borough and their Mum was interviewed on the BBC.
Wonderful sponsors Bookmark contacted us in March about providing books and school equipment for every refugee child arriving in the borough. They went away and fundraised phenomenally, returning in May with delightful boxes for the children we support, all of whom are now registered for and attending local schools.
Here are some photos of the delighted families when the Bookmark angels returned with gifts.