Long-term plans are needed from the government for accommodation for Ukrainian refugees, as many approach six months into their stay in the UK, a representative from Suffolk Refugee Support has said.

Under the Homes for Ukraine scheme launched on March 15, sponsors agreed to host refugees for as long as they are able to, with a minimum stay of six months when some may choose to end the arrangement.

Suffolk is hosting almost 1,000 refugees at present - but a shortage of rental accommodation and social housing is making families anxious about what happens next.

The government has said that it is “completely wrong” to suggest that the scheme ends at six months, and has reiterated that the ‘thank you’ payments of £350 per month to hosts can continue for up to 12 months.

“The end of the first six months won’t start hitting until later in September, and we're expecting the real pinch-point to come in October to November,” said Martin Simmonds from the Suffolk Refugee Centre, which is based in Ipswich.

“We continue to raise the issue of the difficult situation many guests and hosts will be in at that point, and very much hope to hear more about government plans to tackle this soon."

In July, the Office for National Statistics conducted a survey of 17,702 adults who were registered with the Homes for Ukraine scheme.

Of these, 19% said they intended to provide accommodation for the initially agreed period of six months.

Meanwhile, 23% said they would provide accommodation for longer than 12 months.

“We have inevitably seen some host-guest relationships break down, but thankfully this is not happening in great numbers, and the majority of sponsorship arrangements are incredibly positive,” said Mr Simmonds.

Data from the Home Office shows that under the Homes for Ukraine Sponsorship scheme, 1,228 visas have been issued to Ukrainians with sponsors in Suffolk, with at least 928 of the visa recipients having arrived.

Among local authority districts, East Suffolk has welcomed the most refugees – 279 – with West Suffolk receiving 250 and Mid Suffolk, 190.

Retired RAF wing commander Kim Balshaw, who has been helping to match Ukrainians with sponsors, said in Felixstowe alone there were 100 refugees staying with 30 sponsor families after fleeing the Russian invasion, which began in February.

Mr Balshaw said the situation was complex because some families wanted to return to Ukraine at the earliest opportunity, while others wanted to settle long-term in the UK, but the uncertainty over when the war was likely to end made decision-making particularly difficult.

A lack of rental or social housing created difficulties for those who wished to stay.

Landlords were also unlikely to offer accommodation to people unless they knew they were going to be able to pay the rent.

Mr Balshaw also called for a waiver on rules for Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMO).

Currently, landlords need an HMO licence for houses with five occupants or more which could help make more properties available.

“They are all here, and once we know what the score is, potentially we might be able to take them on. But there has got to be medium to long-term accommodation for them and without accommodation it would just be exacerbating the situation,” Mr Balshaw said.

A government spokesperson said: "We have always been clear that we asked sponsors to host Ukrainians for a minimum of six months and the thank you payments can continue for up to 12 months.

“We will be updating sponsors shortly to outline options and support if they want to continue. It remains the case that the majority of sponsors are choosing to host for a longer period and we will continue to support them through the monthly thank you payments and an enhanced package of support resources.

“It’s also important to note that we have worked closely with councils in every part of designing and delivering the scheme.”

Resources for Ukrainian refugees or host families in Suffolk can be found on the Suffolk Refugee Support website at: www.suffolkrefugee.org.uk/ukraine-refugee-update/