The plan to host refugees from Ukraine was widely welcomed across the UK, with many British families more than happy to chip in by hosting families that were displaced because of the conflict. The ‘Homes for Ukraine’ scheme was finally launched on March 18, 2022, almost a month after the conflict started. As per the scheme, families in Britain could help to provide shelter to Ukrainian families or individuals in their homes.
The need for background checks
As is the case with all good things, there always is the risk of a downside i.e., the risk of exploitation of the vulnerable by some unscrupulous individuals for financial gain or other unethical reasons. As a preventive measure, it has become mandatory for a host applicant to apply for background criminal checks by getting a DBS Certificate. However, the usual DBS checks do not meet the requirements of the Home for Ukraine scheme because of the risk of the guests arriving and the DBS checks of the host later proving them to be unsuitable to host the individual/s. Apart from the guests arriving before the DBS checks are completed there is another factor that needs consideration, the demography of the guests. As most young males are conscripted in the Ukrainian national army, it is mostly women and children that arrive as refugees. That increases the risk of them falling prey to predators. Furthermore, the use of social media has created issues like hosts only preferring single young women as guests.
There have been instances where the local authorities needed to find alternate guest arrangements because of the DBS checks of certain hosts coming back as unsuitable.
Those responsible for DBS checks for hosts
To identify if a host is suitable there is a need for them to undergo enhanced checks also commonly called Enhanced CRB Check. In regular cases of employment, these checks need to be requested by the employer or organisation also referred to as the responsible organisation. At the time of their request, they have to clarify if the check meets the requirements of the ROA (rehabilitation of offenders’ act). This is only carried out if the applicant for the vacancy will be in touch with children or vulnerable adults or else it would be illegal to carry out such a check. For those that will be hosts for refugees from Ukraine, the local authority at the council level is the responsible organisation. They are tasked with the responsibility of the guests that arrive, their well-being and ensuring they find alternative homes if the DBS checks of a host are deemed unsuitable.
No matter at what stage of the DBS checks it is the Home Office that issues the visas. Once an individual/s is granted a visa it is their legal right to stay for the duration of the visa. If in that period if the host’s DBS checks come back as unsuitable the guests are not at fault. The problem with visas being given at present to guests is they are issued after hosts are found without the latter’s criminal checks not having been completed.
Enhanced Checks Needed
The main reason why hosts need to undertake enhanced checks is that they are much more detailed than standard checks. In basic checks, only unspent or current convictions are shown. With the standard and enhanced checks, reprimands, police cautions, final warnings and past convictions all are disclosed. While there are some exceptions they are handled at the enhanced level of checking. However, there may be certain offences that remain undisclosed even in an enhanced check, so the responsible organisation must convince the authorities as to why they need to scrutinise any of these past convictions.
For those applying as hosts for refugees from Ukraine, particularly families with children, enhanced checks would be ideal as they cover the Adults and Children’s barred list. The barred list contains the name of individuals that have committed certain crimes against vulnerable adults or children and are henceforth banned from working with these groups. Staying in the same house with guests such as a family with children will constitute regular contact and could pose a risk to the safety of the children.