Today (24 February 2023) marks one year since the Russian invasion of Ukraine. West Devon Borough Council invites the West Devon community to join them in this important moment of reflection and pay tribute to the bravery of the Ukrainian people around the world.  

Since the devastating full scale Russian invasion of Ukraine on 24 February 2022, West Devon has welcomed 179 guests over 70 family groups. 

In what has been a deeply unsettling year for the people of Ukraine, here in West Devon, several programmes and projects, led by the Council have been successfully embedded to ensure those displaced from the war, find a place of safety and support.   

A dedicated Homes for Ukraine Team working across both West Devon Borough and South Hams District councils was formed in 2022 to ensure those arriving to the area in very distressing circumstances, have access to housing and the essential services they so desperately need.  The Government’s ‘Homes for Ukraine scheme has seen the Council providing a range of services to ensure suitable living arrangements which meet the immediate needs of those arriving. Support has included property inspections, welcome visits, and guidance for host families.

Support from the Council has often extended past the initial six-month sponsorship and continues to this day.  Partnership working has been at the forefront of the Council’s work in ensuring the Ukrainian community are being cared for. The Homes for Ukraine Team have spent the last year collaborating closely with community and voluntary groups to provide familiar and welcoming places where Ukrainian people can get the help they need. This work has been instrumental in opening up opportunities for employment, education, training, and volunteering.  

With many Ukrainian residents arriving in West Devon feeling traumatised, isolated, and scared; mental health and making personal connections have been high on the Council’s priorities. Events, support groups and workshops, commissioned through the Council for Voluntary Sector (CVS) have encouraged community spirit and offered respite from the troubling times. Many Ukrainians have brought their personal and professional skills to these forums and now facilitate or support these important programmes.  

An extended service from Citizens Advice has meant that Ukrainian people have had the support they need with claiming benefits, jobs, childcare, education and immigration enquiries. This practical support has been key in ensuring the stresses of everyday life can be eased whilst coming to terms with the enormity of events.  

Last year, the Council hosted a fun-filled event for 150 guests including 40 children who have moved to the Borough since the outbreak of war. Held on 26 November 2022 at the Bedford Hotel in Tavistock, the Council brought the community together with the help of its Homes for Ukraine Team, Citizens Advice and CVS. Council Leader, Councillor Neil Jory, Mayor, Councillor Mott and other Borough Councillors supported the event by getting involved with fun activities with the children and talking to families and organisations about their experiences, and the work taking place throughout West Devon to support the Ukrainian community.  

The wider community have also been working hard the past year to support the Ukrainian community as much as possible. Businesses, church groups, schools and residents have provided donations as well as much needed practical and emotional support.  Cllr Neil Jory, Leader of West Devon Borough Council, said: “Today marks an important moment in time where we should reflect and honour those whose lives have been lost or displaced through the war on Ukraine. “I take this opportunity to thank all of the West Devon community in their efforts to support the people of Ukraine who have been welcomed so warmly and provided with the essential support they need”. “We will continue to work hard to ensure support is given to those who need it and together as community, continue to stand with Ukraine.”