A local man known for his work supporting Ukrainian refugees has been celebrated in a thank you event at 10 Downing Street.

Ukraine support worker and host for Wokingham Borough Council Stuart Holden started as a host for Ukrainian guests when the war first broke out.

He later joined the council as a support worker with the goal of helping those in need.

Last month Stuart received an invitation from the Prime Minister and later attended a reception hosted by The Rt Hn Michael Gove to celebrate the Orthodox New Year with Ukrainians who have been welcomed to the UK and host families who have supported the Homes for Ukraine scheme.

Stuart has a long history with Ukraine, doing charity work in the country for over 15 years.

When the war broke out, he went to Sweden to help refugees get to a charity base in Poland and went on to sponsor a woman he had known since she was a child, living in an orphanage, to live with him and his wife Joanne.

Since then, he has sponsored two other Ukrainians, including Sasha who attended the reception with him.

Stuart said: “I went with my wife Joanne and guests Sasha and Lyudmila. Lyudmila has only been in the country for a few days, so we used the opportunity for some sightseeing before going to Downing Street.

“We were introduced to Michael Gove, the secretary of State for Levelling Up who spent some time talking with us.

“He was interested in how the hosting system was working and especially wanted to know what could be improved."

This comes after a New Year announcement that the UK Government was to extend the scheme, offering payments for 24 months rather than the original 12 months, as well as increasing the monthly payments for guests who have been in the country over 12 months.

Cllr Rachel Bishop-Firth, executive member for equalities, inclusion and fighting poverty, said: “We have welcomed nearly 500 Ukrainian guests into the borough since war broke out.

“To be invited by the Prime Minister to Number 10 is a huge honour, and we are glad that Stuart could represent our hosts and our Ukraine support team and the amazing work they do.”