Following the surge in refugees fleeing war in Ukraine in early 2022, the first Welcome Centre of its kind was quickly set up in Ceredigion.

The Urdd Gobaith Cymru Gwersyll at Llangrannog was selected as a location by the Welsh Government and it was opened on 28 March 2022.

During the next four months, up until 31 August 2022 when the centre was officially closed, 72 Ukranian families were supported and given unique and bespoke wrap-around services in the county.

A multiagency delivery group was soon set up consisting of Welsh Government, Ceredigion County Council, Urdd Gobaith Cymru, Hywel Dda University Health Board, Cytun, Public Health Wales, Dyfed-Powys Police, the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) and others.

Wrap-around services

All Council services adapted promptly to the new need for services which ranged from IT support (to improve reception), to finance and legal support, through to business administration. The Partnerships and Performance team undertook the registration and data management side of the project and also managed a team of staff to ensure that all families received high quality wrap-around support. The Schools service provided on-site education provision for school aged children and the Porth Cymorth Cynnar service provided childcare for pre-school children.

A paper compiling Ceredigion County Council’s contribution to the Welcome Centre was presented to Cabinet Members on 04 October 2022, as well a letter of appreciation by the First Minister of Wales, Mark Drakeford.

Rt Hon Mark Drakeford MS, First Minister of Wales, said: “On behalf of the Welsh Government, we want to express our heartfelt thanks for the incredible support and the exceptional hard work the council has provided over the last few months. Together with partners, you have played a critical role in ensuring Wales has lived up to our ambition of being a Nation of Sanctuary. The Llangrannog Welcome Centre was a real example of the extraordinary warm Welsh welcome we have been able to offer to our new Ukrainian friends. Your efforts have demonstrated the Team Wales approach so characteristic of our joint effort to support people seeking sanctuary.”

Councillor Bryan Davies, Leader of Ceredigion County Council, stated: “The integrated and seamless way that agencies worked together was the leading factor in the success of this project and 72 Ukrainian families will be forever grateful for the support and compassion that was extended to them in Ceredigion. Most were worried about their families in Ukraine, their future, how they would be able to find a job in this country and secure permanent accommodation. They were also very concerned about getting their children into school. We received consistent feedback that the Urdd and Council staff at the Welcome Centre were helpful, friendly, and always there to help. They valued the quality of the accommodation, felt safe and that the help with obtaining key UK documents was invaluable to them. Some stated that they were in tears when they arrived from Ukraine, and were in tears when they left Llangrannog, having received such excellent care and support.

Public Health Wales and Hywel Dda University Health Board also carried out health screening on all new arrivals and arranged GP allocation for the refugees. They also provided drop-in health advice sessions with a translator.

Maria Battle, Chair of Hywel Dda University Health Board, said: “We have been caring for hundreds of people, mainly women and children, at the Urdd in Llangrannog, who have had to leave war ravaged Ukraine for safety. I would like to express, on behalf of the Board, my sincere thanks for the expert care and dedication of all our staff who ensured that that their physical and emotional health needs were cared for with kindness, understanding and expertise. This was an example of excellent partnership reflecting all the principles held dear in our Nation of Sanctuary.”

Lowri Jones, Director of the Llangrannog Urdd Gobaith Cymru Centre, added: “Humanitarian support has been at the core of the Urdd’s work since our establishment in 1922. The Welcome Centre at Llangrannog would not have been possible without the support of Urdd members and schools enabling us to open our doors to families from Ukraine. The partnership working with Ceredigion Council, Public Health Wales and Hywel Dda University Health Board meant that the multiagency team allowed us to offer the best support for the families in their time of need.”

The full Cabinet paper can be found on Ceredigion County Council’s website.