Summer activities, transport and long-term accommodation have been identified among the key issues for groups helping Ukrainian families in Donegal this summer.
A special meeting of Donegal County Council heard that local community organisations are concerned about supporting children and teenagers when schools are closed.
As of 15th June, Donegal has given temporary accommodation to 1,657 Ukrainian nationals. There are 33 different accommodation centres, with approx 300 people based in both Letterkenny and Bundoran.
A Community Response Forum was established by Donegal County Council to coordinate the community and voluntary response across the county.
Over the coming two months, groups such as DLDC, Donegal Intercultural Platform, and Inishowen Development Platform are working to provide summer camps and integration opportunities for young Ukrainians.
The type of accommodation, where families are living in hotels for months, leaves challenges for children and teenagers, the meeting heard.
Councillors were told that another key challenge across Donegal is transport. Despite the work of Local Link, the rural location of families is a difficulty, as the meeting heard that many people are being placed where there is available accommodation, not services.
Barry McLaughlin. Social Enterprise & Community Development Officer at IDP said there is a constant challenge faced by agencies that are very willing to put together solutions, such as summer camps, but are finding it challenging to get the children from their bases to the camps. It is hoped that additional funding can provide a more focused support on the issue.
Paul Tiernan from the Donegal Intercultural Platform said the needs and perspectives of Ukrainian families are changing. The platform has brought in Ukrainian volunteers to help with programmes and encourage engagement with young people, especially teenagers. The platform provides English conversation classes, befriending and connections between local communities, education guides and many other support services.
Mr Tiernan stressed the importance of Donegal County Council’s coordination work in the months to come. He said: “There are some families thinking about the possibility of returning home. Many are looking at the prospect of not having somewhere to return to. That presents a challenge to all of us, where we move from providing an emergency response to include and integrate people on a much longer term basis.
“I think that is why it’s vitally important that Donegal County Council is available to fulfil that coordination role to make sure that all of us are pointing in the right direction.”
DLDC has diverted significant resources to supporting the Ukrainian people. Two translators have been employed to visit accommodation centres with DLDC staff members and every centre is visited at least once per week to meet with the refugees and provide support and assistance as required.
The response by agencies was praised highly at today’s meeting. Looking to the future, the Community Forum within Donegal County Council will be likely to be asked to take on a greater role in finding accommodation for families. In preparation, the local authority is considering appointing a Senior Staff member with a small support team to deliver on this expanded role.