BRUSSELS (Brussels Morning) – Now that the financial picture for the PCSWs to receive Ukrainian refugees is in order, it is time to work out a framework for the practical matters, according to the field. “There are still many questions in all kinds of areas. Who is eligible for social housing? What support does the social worker have when conducting a social investigation?”
These are the words of Nathalie Debast, spokeswoman for the umbrella organisation Association of Flemish Cities and Municipalities (VVSG), which together sent its Walloon and Brussels sister organisations an open letter to the federal government. She is pleased that this has been responded to so quickly, but is already looking ahead to the next phase.
“It is now mainly all hands on deck to arrange crisis relief: arranging beds, mattresses, vans and food, although the crowds differ from municipality to municipality.” At the moment, the host families are also assisting the newly arrived Ukrainians. After the crisis reception, it is time to look at integration. Questions will arise in all kinds of domains, from childcare to education to finding housing and work.
VVSG and the other knowledge networks aim to meet shortly with the Social Integration PPS and the federal government to further outline these matters.
In the meantime, work is underway in Brussels City on a unified administrative counter, where Ukrainians can go with questions about housing and other matters. There, the demand for help from Ukrainians is not so bad for the time being. “One or two requests,” says CPAS spokeswoman for Brussels City, Florence Cabrera.
That will not remain so for long, suspects Georgy Manalis, director of the federation of the Brussels PCSWs. “The United Nations estimates five million people will flee the country.” The number of 200,000 Ukrainians who would come to Belgium can be heard.
Manalis himself estimates that some 32,000 Ukrainians may come to Brussels. Not everyone will knock on the door of the OCMW, but Manalis points out that it is not obvious that people without a network find work and housing immediately upon arrival.
Although, like Debast, he is pleased that the federal government will reimburse 135 percent of the costs incurred by the CPAS for counselling Ukrainians, he also notes that social work often takes much longer than the three months that the federal government says it will reimburse for 135 percent. After that it will be 125 percent.
That is not a good sign, says Manalis. Because it can take up to two years for a person to be accompanied by a CPAS. “There are no long-term solutions yet, we are currently still thinking about the short term.”
Manalis hints at the long waiting lists for social housing in Brussels. In contrast to Flanders, there are currently hardly any plans in the Brussels Region to build so-called ’emergency villages’. Auderghem is for the time being the first municipality to present itself as the home base for such a village.