Olha, 36, says she was told to leave Brighton home when she was unable to pay money being demanded of her
A Ukrainian refugee has been left homeless just days after moving in with a host in Brighton who demanded money from her to pay for utility bills.
Olha, 36, who asked for her real name not to be used, moved in with her host who had registered with the government’s Homes for Ukraine scheme. But she was told to leave when she said she was unable to pay the money her host demanded.
A Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities source said it was not acceptable for hosts to demand money from Ukrainian guests. Hosts can claim £350 a month from a government fund to cover the costs of hosting Ukrainian refugees.
The deputy leader of Brighton and Hove city council, Hannah Clare, confirmed the council was aware of the case and condemned the government hosting scheme.
“The government’s Homes for Ukraine scheme has been badly put together. Among its flaws is the fact that there is no mechanism for councils to transfer a Ukrainian guest to an alternative sponsor when something like this happens,” she said.
Olha, who was working in finance and economics before the war started, matched with a British woman in her 60s via a Facebook group and had registered with the government’s Homes for Ukraine scheme. She fled her home in Dnipro on 28 March and began a dangerous and harrowing journey out of Ukraine by car. She arrived in Brighton about two weeks later.
At first Olha thought things would go well with her host. She provided her with an evening meal when she arrived, but told her she would be expected to provide her own food after that.
But soon the host started demanding money and said Olha was costing her a lot in utility bills. “She contacted the utility companies, asked them how much she had spent that week and told me that since I had arrived her energy bills had gone up a lot and that I needed to pay her £50 per week for energy bills. She said if I didn’t want to pay her I had to leave,” said Olha.
“I felt so upset I thought it would have been better for me to stay at home in Ukraine so that I wouldn’t experience anything like this.”
She left her host’s home and has managed to find someone from a local church who offered to let her stay with her for a few days.
“I’m in a very difficult situation because my family are still in Ukraine. My brother is a soldier and my mother has refused to leave the country. I’ve received contradictory information about what I should do next. I don’t want to scare other Ukrainians who are coming here but what happened to me is dreadful. It has caused me so much stress and made me feel totally unsafe. My host told me I needed to go. But where should I go? I have only just arrived in the UK.”
According to the latest government data 6,600 people have arrived as part of the Ukraine sponsorship scheme with 39,300 visas for the initiative granted. Another 15,000 people have arrived under the Ukraine family scheme with 32,500 of these visas granted.
Advice on the government website said sponsors should inform their local council if a hosting arrangement breaks down.
Clare said: “We are sadly aware of this really unfortunate situation. We understand that the woman in question is safe and has been helped by a local community group to find another place to live temporarily. We will do what we can to offer her support.
“Homes for Ukraine is a private matching scheme that is not mediated by councils. We have warned all along of the risk of some relationships breaking down and inappropriate hosts taking part due to a lack of proper oversight by the government.
“The scheme is at its heart deeply flawed. Councils have no control over when Ukrainian guests arrive in the city, nor do we get adequate notice. We rely on information from hosts about when refugees are arriving. With this in mind it isn’t possible for councils to carry out property and welfare checks before guests arrive.”