Norwich host yet to see payment 6 weeks after guest arrives

6:30 AM August 2, 2022

A woman living in Norwich is facing “destitution” after receiving no financial aid after she opened her home to a young woman fleeing the war in Ukraine.

Sharon Ballard, 51, of Beeching Road, opened up her home to a 20-year-old woman in June.

After seeing the chaos in Ukraine when Vladimir Putin’s troops rolled over the border in February Sharon was determined to do something to help.

But, after receiving no payments since each guest arrived under the Homes for Ukraine Scheme, Sharon has been left needing to use a foodbank.

Under the Homes for Ukraine Scheme, hosts are given £350 a month from the government via local councils to help offset any additional expenses incurred.

“I am disgusted at how the government is handling this situation,” she said.

Sharon Ballard, 51, opened up her Lakenham home to a Ukrainian refugee in June
– Credits: Sharon Ballard

“I am at my wits end and nearly destitute because they are not paying the thank you payment as they have told us.

“I just kept thinking ‘It’ll be any day now’.

“Some people have been waiting 10 weeks and still no payment.”

Sharon, who lived alone before welcoming her Ukrainian guest, is a carer for the elderly and earns minimum wage.

“I took on this young lady in good faith. I was totally not prepared to be waiting for my money on week six and no one will tell me when it will be paid.

“My wage is the only income coming in.”

The only money that has come through to support Sharon and her guest is the £200 payment she received in the weeks following each arrival.

She added that the only support she has been able to get is food vouchers via Norwich City Council.

“The £200 payment to my guest has been spent,” she added. “I have paid for all expenses believing that my payment would be shortly after the July 18, one month after my guests’ arrival.

“The only help I can get is foodbank vouchers.

“I certainly didn’t envisage myself ending up at a foodbank because the government haven’t held up their end.

“Had I known about these issues I may have changed my mind about being a host.

“Now I am seriously thinking about asking her to find somewhere else to live because I don’t have enough money to pay for two people.

“I thought I was doing a good thing here, but she could end up homeless now and all because of a system that’s clearly not working.

“I never thought doing what I’ve done would mean I end up going to a foodbank to be able to eat.

“We’re on the brink of it now.

“This is awful for hosts in my situation who thought they were just doing a really good thing.

“This has ended up hurting me because I’m having to work overtime just to afford bread and each potatoes week. It’s affecting my mental health because I can’t afford anything.

“Everything for me has stopped until this payment comes through.”

Norfolk County Council – which distributes finances to those housing refugees under the Homes for Ukraine Scheme – did not respond to a request for comment.

The Department for Leveling Up, Housing and Communities has co-ordinated more than 100,000 people from Ukraine arriving in the UK under the refugee scheme. A spokesman said that any delays are due to the council and not central government.

The office confirmed that Miss Ballard passed all government checks.

A government spokeswoman said: “Sponsors are the backbone of the Homes for Ukraine scheme and they have helped more than 72,700 Ukrainians find safety here in the UK.

“Ukrainian arrivals can access benefits from the day they arrive and we are giving sponsors £350 payments to cover any additional costs. It is for individual councils to administer these ‘thank you’ payments.”

Homes for Ukraine Scheme

The Homes for Ukraine scheme was established by the UK government in March to allow people living in the UK to sponsor a Ukrainian national or family to come to live in the UK with them, providing they have suitable accommodation to offer.

This is different from the Ukraine Family Scheme visa, which allows applicants to join family members in the UK.

Good-willed sponsors provide accommodation for as long as they are able with a minimum expectation of six months.

Eligible people have to be a Ukrainian national or the immediate family member of a Ukrainian national and lived in Ukraine prior to January 1 this year.

Those arriving under the scheme are able to live and work in the UK for up to three years as well as access healthcare, benefits, employment support, education, and English language tuition.

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