No limit will be placed on the number of Ukrainians who can be offered a home in Britain, Michael Gove has said.

The Government launched the sponsorship scheme – Homes for Ukraine – to allow people and organisations to give Ukrainians fleeing the war a place to stay on Monday afternoon.

Communities Secretary Michael Gove told MPs Ukrainians will be able to live and work in the UK for up to three years under the scheme, with “full and unrestricted access to benefits, healthcare, employment and other support”.

Those offering a place to stay will receive a tax-free monthly payment of £350 which will not affect benefit entitlements or council tax status.

Russian invasion of UkraineMichael Gove announced the scheme in the Commons on Monday (David Parry/PA)

Speaking in the Commons, Mr Gove said the number of Ukrainians now arriving in the UK is “rapidly increasing”, and the numbers will “grow even faster from tomorrow”, adding that the “unfailingly compassionate British public wants to help further”.

He said: “Today we are answering that call with the announcement of a new sponsorship scheme, Homes For Ukraine.

“The scheme will allow Ukrainians with no family ties to the UK to be sponsored by individuals or organisations who can offer them a home. There will be no limit to the number of Ukrainians who can benefit from this scheme.

“The scheme will be open to all Ukrainian nationals and residents. They will be able to live and work in the United Kingdom for up to three years. They will have full and unrestricted access to benefits, health care, employment and other support.”

The Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities later clarified that the scheme will be open to Ukrainian nationals and immediate family members who were residents prior to January 1 – but did not include residents who are not Ukrainian nationals as an eligible group.

The Homes for Ukraine webpage also does not mention residents of Ukraine who are not Ukrainian nationals.

UK sponsors can be “of any nationality with any immigration status, provided they have at least six months leave to remain within the UK” and will need to provide accommodation for a “minimum of six months”.

The Government wants to “minimise bureaucracy and make the process as straightforward as possible, while also doing everything we can to ensure the safety of all involved”, he added as he set out how sponsors will need to submit to “vetting” while Ukrainians will also be subject to security checks.

Initially the scheme will “facilitate sponsorship between people with known connections” so it can be “up and running as soon as possible”, Mr Gove said, but added that it will “rapidly” expand by working with charities, faith and community groups.

Mr Gove said the UK has a “long and proud history” of supporting the most vulnerable “in their darkest hours”, adding: “The British people have already opened their hearts in so many ways, I’m hopeful that many will also be ready to open their homes and to help those fleeing persecution find peace, healing and the prospect of a brighter future.”

Shadow communities secretary Lisa Nandy said Labour was relieved to hear Mr Gove would announce the sponsorship scheme after weeks of delay, adding: “A press release is not a plan and we are really deeply concerned about the lack of urgency.”

Ms Nandy insisted the visa application process could be simplified, telling Mr Gove: “We could keep essential checks but drop the excessive bureaucracy.”

The web page experienced some difficulties minutes after launching, with people trying to register their interest as individuals and organisations being timed out, but this appeared to be resolved shortly after.

In less than an hour, 1,500 people had already registered for the scheme, Mr Gove told MPs, adding that he hopes the first Ukrainians to receive support under the project will arrive within a week.

Amnesty International UK accused the Government of “trying to save face rather than setting out measures which genuinely respond to the needs of people fleeing the war in Ukraine”, adding: “After the Home Office’s chaotic and coldly bureaucratic response, the sponsorship scheme smacks of ‘emergency PR’ from a Government which has totally misread the public mood.

“We’ll need to see the full details, but the UK’s refugee sponsorship schemes do not have a good track record. A similar sponsorship arrangement for Syrians led to only a few hundred people being accommodated.”

Clare Moseley, founder of the charity Care4Calais, said there could be “significant implications” for people who lived in Ukraine but are not Ukrainian nationals.

She said: “We are supporting people who have lived in Ukraine for many years, have been forced to run and have lost their homes, and yet still may not qualify.

“This is not a time to be excluding anyone who needs safety due to the terrible events in Ukraine, as doing so will be devastating for those concerned.”