‘I won’t turf out Ukrainians despite my soaring winter energy bill’

Steve Dury said doubling the monthly £350 ‘thank you’ payment would ‘help the situation massively’.

14 October 2022

A Briton hosting four Ukrainians said his monthly £350 payment is “failing to cover the increase in the bills this winter” and called for further support and clarity from the Government regarding its plans.

Several groups, including the Refugee Council, have expressed concerns over the Homes for Ukraine scheme potentially being “quietly phased out” – although the Government said the scheme is continuing.

However, a new refugees minister has yet to be appointed following Lord Harrington’s departure and the cost-of-living crisis is set to bite this winter for hosts like Steve Dury.

Russian invasion of Ukraine
Steve Dury said the Ukrainians staying with him ‘almost feel like part of my family now so I’ll do my best to do what’s best for them and absorb the extra cost’ (Steve Dury/PA)

Mr Dury, a local government officer from Langport, Somerset, has hosted two women and their two children since April via the Homes for Ukraine scheme and has been forced to reassure them he will not kick them out.

“I’ve said they’re welcome to stay here as long as they want, although I am aware that the £350 monthly payment is failing to cover the increase in the bills this winter,” the 60-year-old told the PA news agency.

Mr Dury said the £350 monthly payment started after relevant checks were completed and was backdated to the refugees’ arrival date.

He said: “But (the people staying with me) have obviously been asking what will happen at the end of the six-month period and I’ve said there’s no way I’m going to turf them out and leave them to their own devices in the private rental sector.

“When we signed up to the scheme six months ago, obviously we did it for altruistic reasons but at that time the energy costs weren’t spiralling, which they are now.

“And so I’m… facing a shortfall in the payment to cover the bills, which for me I’ve decided to try and absorb, but I know for some people that will be a factor in their decision as to whether they are actually able to continue hosting people.”

Mr Dury hopes there is a potential for the payment to be doubled.

“I was aware that the refugees minister a few months ago was lobbying for (the payment) to be doubled to £700, which would certainly help the situation massively, but I understand he’s no longer refugees minister and we’ve heard absolutely nothing since.”

Mr Dury said the lack of clarity from the Government is a “concern”.

“It is a concern for me, certainly because I know that I’m going to be forking out a lot of money to be able to do this this winter, and the fact that because we haven’t heard anything we don’t know what the Government are thinking – if they’re going to continue the scheme, how long they’re going to continue it for – so it does lead to uncertainty both for hosts and for guests”, he said.

He said the Ukrainians he is hosting “almost feel like part of my family now so I’ll do my best to do what’s best for them and absorb the extra cost”.

However, he said hosts and families need “clarity” about what will happen with the scheme, as well as extra support to “prevent a wave of homelessness this winter and the year ahead”.

Growing fears about more Ukrainians becoming homeless have been expressed by the Local Government Association (LGA), which said it is “deeply concerned” about the growing number of Ukrainians presenting as homeless to their council.

Russian invasion of Ukraine
Mr Corke said the potential for the Homes for Ukraine scheme to be phased out imminently would be ‘extremely premature’ (PA)

Freelance journalist and refugee host Roger Corke, who is based in Enfield, North London, told PA: “I suppose it’s almost inevitable that some of these things will not work.

“It’s fair to say that not everyone is going to get on with their family but we’ve got on well.”

Mr Corke began hosting a Ukrainian family of three on April 11 – Karina, 31, her mother Iryna, 58, and her six-year-old daughter Zlata – who left Kyiv as a result of Russia’s invasion.

“We were one of the lucky ones, we managed to get our family in about three weeks after they first applied, but that’s because I was pushing every day”, he said.

“I mean I don’t tweet, but I was tweeting every day, I got the help of an MP.”

Mr Corke said he did not receive an adequate amount of support from the Government during processing for the scheme.

“Basically, you sign off the Homes for Ukraine scheme, at which point the Government say, ‘Well, it’s all up to you now.’”

Despite this, he said he and his wife Lynn are “really pleased” to have participated in the scheme, see Zlata settle into school and see the family “settled and happy” in the UK.

The family are in the process of trying to move closer to the centre of London so Karina can be closer to her place of work in a beauty salon and be able to get back to pick up her daughter from school.

Amid rising fears about the Homes for Ukraine scheme being “quietly phased out”, he said it would be premature to phase out the scheme “right now”.

“We’ve had a whole load of rockets flying in from Russia and one of those rockets ended up in a children’s playground that little Zlata used to play in, which hit really close to home”, he added.

“So who knows what’s going to happen in three months’, six months’ time?”

A Government spokeswoman said: “The Homes for Ukraine scheme will continue as the UK Government and British people continue to go above and beyond to support those fleeing war.

“All arrivals have access to benefits and employment from day one.

“The majority of sponsors want to continue hosting for longer than six months. Where guests do move on they have a number of options, including renting or finding a new sponsor.

“Councils have a duty to ensure families are not left without a roof over their heads, and receive £10,500 per person to cover costs.”

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