Aylesbury man slams council and Government for lack of support since returning from Ukraine

An Aylesbury man has been left outraged by the lack of support he's received from both the Government and Bucks Council since returning from Ukraine.

By James Lowson
Thursday, 21st April 2022, 11:18 am
Updated Thursday, 21st April 2022, 11:19 am

Simon McCarthy sold his home in Aylesbury and relocated to Kyiv two years ago.

He has spent over two weeks back in the UK and has received no financial support.

The graphic designer came home with his Ukrainian partner, Iryna Khomenko, and her mother, Liudmyla Khomenko.

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Simon McCarthy and Iryna Khomenko

Simon has labelled the Ukrainian Family Scheme as 'disgusting' because only sponsored refugees are entitled to the money.

The British national believes that by only distributing £200 to Ukrainian families who have secured sponsorships prior to their arrival, the government is 'grading' refugees, rather than treating everyone fleeing the war-torn country as a human being.

In organising the paperwork to enter the UK on the scheme there was ‘no mention’ of the immediate emergency funding only being available to certain refugees.

With that option closed to the McCarthy family they have been applying for pension and universal credit support.

Luidmyla and Iryna

At the time of writing, between the three of them, they have received no money from either scheme.

On Monday the council provided Simon and his family with additional support, but did not offer instructions in Ukrainian.

Bucks Council's 'Ukrainian Family Scheme Arrival Guide', designed to help those relocating in Bucks, does not translate into Ukrainian.

Based on his experiences, Simon believes there has been a failure in strategy and communication, with the government providing funding for local authorities who are yet to establish the best way to allocate the money to people who have already reached the UK.

A photo from Slovakia

While detailed articles have chronicled the number of people coming to the UK under government schemes, Simon feels the lack of support and help Ukrainians who have already arrived in the country has been underreported.

Ahead of potential war breaking out Simon and his Ukrainian partner, Iryna, who had lived in Kyiv for the past two years, travelled back to the UK fearing the worst.

It meant they were already back in England when Russia invaded.

But Iryna’s mother, Liudmyla, stayed for 10 days not wanting to leave her home in Kyiv, before eventually the bombing became too much.

Peter Chapman has donated his annex to the family

Simon told The Bucks Herald: “My partner could tell that her mother’s voice wasn’t right.

"She could tell that she was suffering from the constant firing, shelling, and the stress of it all.

“She said: ‘I want to get out. I want to get out of Kyiv’.”

Simon managed to organise somewhere for Liudmyla to stay in Romania, but due to transport issues in Ukraine, they had to adapt the plan.

Eventually, the 68-year-old was able to secure transport for herself and her cat to Slovakia.

That’s where Simon and Iryna went to meet the pensioner who had endured 10 days of warfare before reaching safety.

In Slovakia the trio completed a quarantine period before they were able to take the cat across Europe with them.

More problems emerged in Calais where refugees are allowed to bring dogs across on Eurostar trains, but cats are banned.

With the help of a kind couple Ian and Barbara who run I.J.McGill Ltd in Bristol they were able to secure transport over to the UK.

Upon arrival Simon was dismayed at the lack of organisation and support offered to people coming over from Ukraine.

He added: “We came after hearing all these promises from the UK Government, and then when you get here, I was shocked. Utterly shocked. There was nothing.

"Had they been alone and not with me, I don’t know what they would have done.

"I had been so proactive trying to get things sorted, trying to organise all the help they possibly could get and the Government still haven’t got a clue.”

Simon says the support system in Britain starkly contrasts with the research he’s done on Germany, where ‘fantastically organised’ government support has made for a much easier transition for people fleeing from Ukraine.

A Government spokesman told The Bucks Herald: “In response to (Vladimir) Putin’s barbaric invasion we have launched one of the fastest and biggest visa schemes in UK history.

"In just five weeks, over 56,000 visas have been issued so people can rebuild their lives in the UK through the Ukraine Family Scheme and Homes for Ukraine.

“Our Ukraine Schemes have reached a turning point, thanks to the changes we’ve made to the streamline the visa system, including simplifying the forms, and boosting staff.

"Around 3,500 applications have been processed a day in the last few days, enabling thousands more Ukrainians to come through our uncapped routes.”

At this point it is unclear whether the family will qualify for the £10,500 per Ukrainian scheme set up by the Government due to the way they entered the country, something they were unaware of when travelling.

When returning to the town where he previously lived Simon was initially placed in temporary accommodation that was unfurnished and didn’t accept pets, despite the fact he had clearly stated he was travelling with a cat.

Meaning the trio had to temporarily take over a friend’s home until more appropriate accommodation was organised.

He is grateful to have since been moved into a more appropriate temporary housing arrangement.

The only satisfactory support he says he has received locally has been the food organised for him from local food banks.

They’ve gratefully received £135 food bank vouchers from the council via the Helping Hands scheme.

A Bucks Council spokesman said: “The council is providing support and assistance to Mr McCarthy, and as part of its homelessness duty has offered him appropriate temporary accommodation.

"It is our duty to ensure the accommodation offered is affordable and we will help him to obtain any financial and material support for his temporary accommodation and enable him to access our Helping Hands scheme until his benefits come through.”