Meet the Calderdale people opening up their homes to Ukrainian refugees amid frustration at Government's settlement scheme

People across Calderdale are opening their homes to Ukrainian refugees, with one family set to welcome their guest this week.

By sarah fitton
Monday, 4th April 2022, 12:22 pm
Updated Monday, 4th April 2022, 12:24 pm

A group has been formed on social media to share information and support for those local people keen to help after hearing the devastating stories coming from the besieged country.

But there has also been frustration at the Government’s Homes for Ukraine scheme, with concerns about the complicated application process and lack of information.

Joëlle McNichol, from Hebden Bridge, said: “I had to help, having seen what was going on.”

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Adam, Elodie, Madeleine and Joëlle from Hebden Bridge are hoping to welcome a woman from Ukraine to their home this week.

She, her husband Adam and their two children are expecting to welcome a 28-year-old translator from Ukraine this week to stay in their spare room. Thirteen days after applying, they had word her visa had been approved and have booked her flight.

Joëlle made contact with the woman on a website with a database of Ukrainians looking for new homes. They have video-called and have been chatting on WhatsApp every day.

She said it was frustrating having little information about how the application was progressing.

“At least we knew our guest was in a safe place in Poland. Other people have guests who are still in Ukraine.”

Anne-Marie and Simon Miles are trying to offer a home to a little girl, her mother and grandmother.

Joëlle has been in touch with others in the Calder Valley who are offering homes, and there was a meeting in Hebden Bridge last month where monthly meet ups were suggested for Ukrainians arriving in the area. Halifax Ukrainian Club has also been offering support.

Mary Ellen, from Heptonstall, is still waiting to hear when her guest - a 30-year-old chef currently in a German refugee camp - will arrive.

He escaped Ukraine as the Russian invasion started to ensure his girlfriend made it out safely.

“The online application is very, very difficult,” she said. “I was almost ready to give up, it was just so infuriating.

The little girl and her mother from Ukraine being offered a home in Southowram

"I worry the process is putting people off.”

Southowram couple Anne-Marie and Simon Miles applied to bring over a three-year-old girl, her mother and grandmother to live with them in their four-bedroom home on March 21 but say they have not heard anything since.

All three have managed to make it out of Ukraine but are quickly running out of funds.

"I am in regular contact with the family and it is so frustrating as they are now very short of money and stranded in Poland in limbo," said Anne-Marie.

"It's so frustrating. People keep offering me donations but I don't want to take them because I don't know when they're coming.

"It's an absolute joke."

Simon served in the army for 24 years, including in Afghanistan and Iraq, so knows the reality of war and its impact on civilians.

Anne-Marie is in touch with the girl's mother, who is a psychologist, every day.

"Her little girl is three years old. She doesn't know that her daddy is fighting a war. She thinks her house is broken and he is fixing it."

A Government spokesperson said: “We are moving as quickly as possible to ensure that those fleeing Ukraine can find safety in the UK through the Ukraine Family Scheme and Homes for Ukraine.

“We have streamlined the process so valid passport holders do not have to attend in-person appointments before arriving in the UK, simplified our forms and boosted caseworker numbers, while ensuring vital security checks are carried out.

“We continue to speed up visa processing across both schemes, with over 29,000 visas issued in the last three weeks alone and thousands more expected to come through these uncapped routes.”