MORE than 160 Ukrainian refugees have been matched with households in Mid Devon.

The district council revealed on Tuesday, May 31, that 165 people are now paired as part of the government’s “Homes for Ukraine” scheme, with about 80 already here.

Under the terms of the Home Office programme, people who provide accommodation for Ukrainian refugees who have fled the Russian invasion will be paid an optional £350 per month for up to a year.

Local authorities will be given £10,500 for every refugee housed in their area, with an additional top-up to help support children into education.

Mid Devon’s main role is inspecting properties that have been offered to house refugees. As the “upper-tier” authority, Devon County Council is responsible for carrying out criminal record checks on people who make their homes available.

Speaking at a recent Mid Devon District Council homes policy development group meeting, council officer Simon Newcombe said 86 households had been accepted so far.

They are spread, he continued: “very widely across the area – all four corners of the district – some very rural locations and more town locations.

“Typically, we are talking about mothers and children but also broader families and some older refugees as well. At the moment around half of those guests have arrived already,” Mr Newcombe added.

“We have about 80 guests in situ already in about 36 households. Now that number will change tomorrow because it’s very much a moving situation.

“And typically on a weekly basis, we gain an additional eight to 10 new properties to inspect which equates to 20-plus additional guests matched to those properties, which makes it quite busy.”

The meeting was told Mid Devon is one of the top three districts in the county for accommodating Ukrainian refugees.

“We’ve got more than Exeter, more than North Devon, but Teignbridge and East Devon have a little bit more than us. So, we’re certainly popular shall we say,” Mr Newcombe said.

Councillors thanked the officer and his colleagues for the work they had done on the project.

The Lib Dem member for Crediton’s Boniface ward, Councillor Jim Cairney, said: “If you can imagine one day, you’re in a house. Next day, a shell blows it up. Next day, you’re running for your life, only to come to a country where you don’t know the food, don’t speak the language, don’t do anything.

“These people must be in absolute dire need and the fact that as a community and as a council – and that goes from the council to the county, right up to the government of the country – that we have actually done as much as we have done, which is very little compared to people who have lost everything, I think that it’s wonderful.”

More than 14 million people are believed to have fled their homes since Russia’s invasion began in February, according to the United Nations (UN).

Ollie Heptinstall