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Welsh Government worked well with partners in difficult circumstances to accommodate and support Ukrainians fleeing the war

27 March 2024
  • More arrivals than expected through the Welsh Government’s super sponsor scheme and over optimism about how long those arriving would stay in their initial accommodation, led to higher costs.

    In March 2022, the UK Government announced plans to allow those fleeing war in Ukraine to enter the UK. Following this announcement, Welsh Ministers decided that the Welsh Government would take responsibility for Ukrainians as a ‘Homes for Ukraine’ super-sponsor which meant people did not need to be matched with a host before receiving a visa.

    In keeping the super sponsor scheme open until June 2022, the Welsh Government prioritised supporting the 1,000 arrivals it said it would during the initial phase of the emergency response. It did this despite the possibility of significantly more Ukrainians actually arriving, as happened.

    By October 2023, the super sponsor scheme accounted for 3,232 – 45 per cent – of the 7,118 Ukrainian arrivals with a host in Wales or through the scheme.

    The report finds that, overall, the Welsh Government and partners worked well together to help Ukrainians access mainstream public services, although there have been some issues around access to healthcare. A Contact Centre played a vital role to co-ordinate arrivals and provide advice.

    Since the initial phase of the response, the Welsh Government and partners have strengthened their focus on supporting Ukrainians to move out of Welcome Centres and other initial accommodation. At the peak in October 2022, there were 32 sites open accommodating 1,840 people. By January 2024, that had fallen to 4 sites, accommodating 128 people. Just two sites are planned to remain open in 2024-25.

    The Welsh Government initially estimated it would cost around £18 million to accommodate 1,000 Ukrainians in Welcome Centres. More arrivals and longer than expected stays in Welcome Centres and other initial accommodation, caused costs to rise overall and put added pressure on wider public services. The costs of accommodation varied significantly but auditors saw evidence of the Welsh Government seeking to secure value for money.

    The Welsh Government spent £61 million on the Ukraine response during 2022-23, including accommodation and other costs. Taking account of UK Government funding, Audit Wales estimates the net cost to the Welsh Government was at least £29.2 million.

    Lower accommodation costs mean the Welsh Government is expecting to spend £35.7 million or less in 2023-24, with the majority met from its own budget. The Welsh Government has budgeted £4.5 million for 2024-25, excluding homelessness support for local government. The longer-term position for Ukrainians depends on UK and international developments and decisions.


    View our summary report

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    Read our summary report in English

    Darllenwch ein hadroddiad cryno yn Gymraeg

    I recognise the considerable efforts involved as Welsh public services and their partners have responded to accommodate and support people arriving from Ukraine. All this at a time when services have been dealing with the legacy of the pandemic and wider pressure on resources. The work will need to continue in the context of wider UK Government decision-making and the course of events in Ukraine. It is good to be able to reflect positively on the overall management of the response under the Welsh Government’s super sponsor scheme. Nonetheless, there are important lessons for the future, including around the Welsh Government's early assessment of the number of arrivals, the way they would be accommodated, and the costs arising from the response.     ​​​​​​​Adrian Crompton, Auditor General for Wales

    Notes to Editors

    • Our work considered whether the Welsh Government, working with its partners, is responding effectively to support Ukrainians in Wales. While those fleeing Ukraine are often referred to as refugees, they do not legally have refugee status in the UK. Appendix 1 in the report provides more detail about our work. Appendix 2 explains UK Government funding for Ukrainians in Wales. The National Audit Office has reviewed the UK Government’s Homes for Ukraine scheme, reporting in October 2023.
    • We describe UK Government funding that the Welsh Government passed on to local authorities as part of the wider Homes for Ukraine scheme. However, our spending analysis focuses on costs associated with the Welsh Government’s response through its super-sponsor scheme. Expenditure and budget figures do not include additional costs to public bodies’ core budgets, for example the costs of providing healthcare services to Ukrainians. They also do not include Welsh Government staff costs.
    • The Welsh Government had limited control over the number of visas issued to Ukrainians and could not be certain as to how many would actually use them. The UK Home Office manages visa applications for the super sponsor scheme as part of the Homes for Ukraine process. The Welsh Government had control over how long the super sponsor scheme would be open to accept applications. Welsh Ministers decided to keep the scheme open to applications until 10 June 2022.
    • The three-year visas of most Ukrainians under the super sponsor scheme are set to expire between April 2025 and the end of June 2025. However, in February 2024 the UK Government announced that Ukrainians can apply for an 18-month extension under the Ukraine Permission Extension Scheme.
    • The Auditor General is the independent statutory external auditor of the devolved Welsh public sector. He is responsible for the annual audit of the majority of the public money spent in Wales.
    • The audit independence of the Auditor General is of paramount importance. He was appointed by the Queen, and his audit work is not subject to direction or control by the Welsh Parliament or government.
    • The Wales Audit Office (WAO) is a corporate body consisting of a nine member statutory Board which employs staff and provides other resources to the Auditor General, who is also the Board’s Chief Executive and Accounting Officer. The Board monitors and advises the Auditor General, regarding the exercise of his functions.
    • Audit Wales is the umbrella name used to describe the Auditor General for Wales and the Wales Audit Office, which are separate legal entities with their own legal function.

    Related Report

    Supporting Ukrainians in Wales

    View more