The first few weeks – how you might get started

Welcome to the UK and the Ukrainian hub

Welcome to Britain, the land of embarrassment and breakfast! Welcome, too, to Salisbury and to the Hub. We hope that we can support you as you take your first steps towards adjusting to life in the UK, and to help you and your host(s) address the many necessary practical activities you will face in your first weeks here. As more Ukrainians have arrived in Salisbury and the surrounding areas, we have been gathering information on their experiences – we hope these notes may be of help to you. 

We are also aware, however, that you may need time and space first. Your hosts may be eager to help you with practical issues, such as finding a bank, making a claim for Universal Credit, or finding a job – but your health and well-being are more important, and you may need to recoup some energy or explore your new surroundings before starting to address these practical matters. Only you can decide. When you are ready, your hosts – and the Hub – are here to help you navigate the inevitable bureaucracy that follows.

There are a number of things you will need to do when you arrive. The order you do them will depend on your particular circumstances, but we hope these notes may help you decide which to prioritise.

£200 Initial payment

Hosts should notify Wiltshire County Council by email at as soon as their guests have arrived, to trigger the initial £200 payment (per head) to see their guests through the first 5-6 weeks until their claim for Universal Credit arrives. They should include the full names of everyone staying with them, their home address and their guest’s email address.  The Paypoint voucher codes will then be sent to that email.

The voucher codes can be exchanged for cash at some retailers offering the PayPoint facility ( Early experience was not positive, with some reporting that staff had no idea how to change the voucher codes for cash; there are only a limited number of the shops, and not all can provide cash. The ones which do are:

  • The Co-op at 197 Wilton Road, SP2 7JY
  • One Stop Stores at 3 North Street, SP2 3HA
  • Pinewood Stores at 64 Pinewood Way SP2 0HA
  • Premier at 1-3 Devizes Road, SP2 7AA
  • SPAR at 1a Gainsborough Way, SP2 9HJ
  • Budgens at Tinkerbell Service Station, SP3 4AD
  • One Stop Stores at 69 Netherhampton Road, SP2 8NA
  • One Stop Stores, North Street, Wilton, SP2 0HA

You may also find, particularly if you have vouchers for multiple family members, that the outlet is not able to give you all the money in one go, necessitating return visits. It is therefore better to visit in the afternoon when there is likely to be more money in the till. Phoning ahead the previous day may also help. It is to be hoped that as the system has bedded in, things may have improved.

Getting A UK Sim Card

Top priority is usually getting a UK SIM card to complete application forms. You may have heard that Vodafone supplied free SIM cards were available, but were slow to arrive due to the huge demand. We understand the position has since improved. Vodafone cards offering 3 months free usage are available via the Red Cross by phoning 08081 963651 within 14 days of your arrival (the Red Cross is also giving £50 to newly arrived Ukrainians). Hosts cannot apply for their guests but the main applicant can apply for all family members

Alternatively, Barnados offer adults and children 6 months free on Vodafone, plus one mobile per family (Tel: 08001488586 email: It has been suggested that you should request sim cards separately as it can take 4 weeks for the phone to arrive.

Mobile company Three has been offering any incoming Ukrainian refugees a free 30-day Pay As You Go SIM card preloaded with unlimited domestic calls and texts, as well as unlimited data for use within the UK. Anyone going in with a Ukrainian passport and/or refugee number (this is preferred), will be given a SIM card there and then.

A two-pin to three-pin adaptor will be needed urgently, if only for charging phones. An international adaptor, (for example, the Masterplug visitor to UK Travel Adaptor) is available from Argos (pack of three £9.99) or individually from Currys (£8.95). We have two adaptors in the office for immediate “top-up” use.

Bank Account

Banks have different application processes, but the crucial thing is generally how long it takes them to approve the application and provide a bank card and account details.  Banks that require proof of residence from a doctor should generally be avoided (mainly High Street banks), but you cannot sign up with an online bank until you have a UK SIM card. Many High Street banks were not initially particularly helpful, and initially at least it was easier to apply for online banking. Monzo was recommended by several hosts, with bank cards said to arrive within days. This remains the case.

NatWest and RBS have both introduced special accounts for Ukrainian arrivals with no opening fee and with information sheets in Ukrainian and Russian on their websites; it was disappointing that Natwest initially indicated that it would take 7 – 10 days for the account information to be confirmed and cards sent out.

We have since been advised that HSBC has a basic account for Ukrainians and others who have no credit history in the UK, which provides online banking, and a debit card (within 3-5 days). The applicant must produce their passport, and the host provide a recent council tax bill to confirm their address, plus a letter confirming that their guest is living with them. The local Salisbury branch was apparently very helpful. Another host has recently confirmed (October) that no appointment was necessary with HSBC, and an account number was provided straight away. Children’s accounts can also be registered with HSBC: a parent’s details are used to verify the account, so you will need to use the DWP letter which confirms their NINO to verify the parent’s address once it arrives.

Alternatively, if your host has a Nationwide account, we have been told that it is easy to open a new bank account for a Ukrainian by going to the branch with your host and your passport. After filling in a form, the account is opened in 2-3 days and a bank card and PIN arrive a few days later.

Universal Credit and Benefits

Ukrainian refugees have the right to the same benefits as British nationals. Those who are not employed or are on low incomes are entitled to Universal Credit. Alternatively, dependent on their circumstances, they may be eligible for Disability Benefits or Pension Credits.

For many, the priority is to submit a claim for Universal Credit, your main source of money until you can find work (and which may continue alongside the money you earn at a reduced level if you are low paid). It normally takes five or six weeks for a claim to be processed, but the money is backdated to the day the claim is made. For this reason, it is important to make a claim as soon as possible. While it is preferable for you to give their own bank details, it is possible to apply initially by completing the form with a series of zeros in the bank details, and then go back to update it later. Using a friend or family member’s bank account information is also possible, so entering the host’s bank details is an option if both of you are willing. 

After you have completed the application on line, you will be called into the local Job Centre to confirm your identity. Do not be surprised if, at this initial meeting, nothing further happens, and you will instead be offered a further meeting to meet the work coach assigned to you.

The DWP/Job Centre can offer an emergency advance as Universal Credit takes 5-6 weeks before the first payment is made. When you are called into the Job Centre, you can raise this if required. Please note, though, that this is a loan which will have to be repaid.

n.b. A document How to Claim Universal Credit (in English and Ukrainain) is available from the Resources section of our website. This gives you more background on the benefit system and takes you through the form itself.

The full government information can be found at

The claim application can be found at

The Work Rights Centre also provides free advice in Russian and Ukrainian on how to access these benefits.

Finding a School

If you have children, you are likely to want to find a school place as quickly as possible. When families first come to the UK, the children tend to get bored, and it is best for their general well-being to get them started at school. If you live in Salisbury, there are a number of options and finding out which school will be best for your family can take time, so it is a good idea to start this process as soon as possible. For those who live in the villages around Salisbury, the local school is likely to be the best option, and some hosts have approached the school on behalf of their guests to secure a place there before their guests’ arrival.

See E. Learning: language lessons and Education on the resources page of our website

Registering with a Doctor

If you have health issues, you may give a higher priority to registering with a doctor (although it is always possible to access emergency NHS treatment without being registered). Many sources of guidance suggest doing this early on in this process – perhaps because some banks that require proof of residency ask for a doctor’s confirmation of your address.

National Insurance Number (NINO)

A NINO smooths the way to getting employment, and there is a widespread belief that you need one before being able to work. Some sources of advice indicate that you should obtain your NINO through the Job Centre: however, the Salisbury Job Centre now recommends that you should do this on lineas it is quicker. You can apply at

See also C. Work and Applying for a National Insurance Number on the resources page of our website

Child Benefit

This is another source of income for families, and needs to be applied for separately. It takes a long time to come through, but is backdated. (If you are elderly or infirm, you may be eligible instead for Disability Benefits and/or Pension Credits).   

You can complete or download a Child Benefit form from this website: We have been told that if you write Fast Track Ukrainian Scheme at the top of the forms, your claim will be handled more quickly.

n.b. The system requires the applicant to send the child’s passport with the application: you may prefer to download the form and complete it, then get the Job Centre to photocopy and verify your child’s passport and any other documents required, so that only the photocopies are sent, allowing you to keep hold of the originals.

Biometric Residency Permit (BRP)

Finally, you must apply for a BRP to extend your right to stay from six months to three years. You should not delay making this application as it has been difficult to get the necessary appointment at a regional centre where your fingerprints and a digital face picture will be taken.

You can apply for a biometric residence permit (BRP), via an online form at Once the form has been accepted, you will need to book an appointment at a regional centre for the finger prints and photograph to be taken. It is worth searching more widely for alternatives within reach if your local centre does not have appointments available. There are also stories of people checking daily and being able to obtain a slot which has newly appeared.

The Red Cross notes that: “depending on what visa or immigration status you have been given to enter the UK, you may need to access immigration advice from a qualified immigration adviser about extending this or making a different kind of application in future. Legal aid can help meet the costs of legal advice and representation but is only available for certain types of applications and for people who cannot afford to pay for a solicitor privately. You can search for a solicitor in the UK on by selecting “Legal Issue & Changing Countries” and entering your postcode, town or city. Or for a legal representative regulated by the UK’s Office of the Immigration Services Commissioner (OISC) through the ‘Find an Immigration Advisor’ search function via this webpage. You can also email explaining your situation and requesting free immigration advice”.


The Citizens Advice organization can be a useful source of information and support, particularly with making claims for universal credit (you can ask for a translator when you call). Locally, Salisbury Citizen’s Advice is at Five Rivers Health and Wellbeing Centre, Hulse Road in Salisbury (SP1 3NR). Initial contact should be made via the phone on 0800 144 8848 or email:

Emails can be sent in Ukrainian if necessary, and will be translated and answered in Ukrainian. 

Insurance (for Hosts)

Although most insurers have agreed that home insurance policies will remain valid if hosts take in Ukrainian refugees, and there will be no increase in premiums, nonetheless hosts should ensure that they notify their House insurers. Many, possibly most, policies already have exclusion clauses for theft etc if they arise as a result of having guests of any type, and these exclusion clauses will apply to your Ukrainian guests too.   

Cultural Sensitivity

You will inevitably experience cultural differences. Some you might experience include:

  • People in the UK do not usually heat their houses to the temperatures you are used to, and are likely to wear thicker jumpers indoors in the winter to keep warm. You may need to ask for an extra blanket, for example, while you adjust.
  • You may find that your hosts will probably not differentiate between clothes to be worn at home and those for outside. 
  • Tap water is completely safe to drink here.
  • There is a recycling system, which requires us to sort the rubbish and then leave it out for collection on a particular day. Your host should tell you how the system operates, and where to put paper and cardboard, plastic, tins and glass.
  • The UK has laws to try to prevent discrimination of all types – for race, gender, sexual orientation or religion, for example. It has become apparent that some sections of UK society are disadvantaged, and it is part of a wider effort to ensure that people are treated the same and that opportunities are given equally to all.        
  • Ukrainian children tend to go to bed later than children in the UK. This has caused some friction in households with children of the same age.
  • …. and you may find yourself saying “thank you” and “sorry” all the time. It’s OK, because this is exactly what people in the UK do. They thank and apologise even when it is unnecessary!