Woman hosting Ukrainian refugee probed by police for ‘modern slavery’ after ‘dishes row’ – The Independent

Woman hosting Ukrainian refugee probed by police for ‘modern slavery’ after ‘dishes row’ – The Independent

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Police launched investigation after Homes for Ukraine arrangement broke down
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Tens of thousands of Ukranians were welcomed to the UK after the war with Russia began
A mother-of-two was investigated for “modern slavery” after a Ukrainian refugee she was hosting in the UK complained to the police.
Hannah Debenham and her husband invited the woman and her 10 year-old daughter to stay at their home in Sussex under the Homes for Ukraine scheme in June. Ms Debenham says they had made an arrangement that the woman would provide babysitting services a few days a week, for £200.
But the NHS mental health specialist said that after a “honeymoon period” the arrangement soon broke down, with the host claiming the family did not clean up after themselves.
On 20 July, Sussex Police received a report “of a person being required to perform forced or compulsory labour”.
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Ms Debenham was interviewed by police during a weeks-long investigation that eventually found no evidence of any wrongdoing. The force said the complainant refused to provide a full statement or assist with further enquiries.
The Homes for Ukraine scheme was launched by the government in March but concerns have been raised by charities about an increasing number of families presenting as homeless as hosting arrangements end or break down.
Speaking out about the ordeal, Ms Debenham told Mail Online the police investigation was “the worst experience of her life”.
”It was just devastating,” she said. “We just wanted to help. If I was charged I would have had to declare that and it would have been a permanent impediment to my career.
“They also spoke to my husband and told him that I could face life in prison if I was found guilty.
“I’ve been an NHS mental health specialist for 15 years and I have often worked with people with severe mental illness supporting their needs in police custody, and this happening to me was the worst experience of my life.”
Ms Debenham said she understood the woman was in a “terrible situation” having fled her country due to Russia’s war but the hosting arrangement did not improve.
She eventually asked the woman to leave, and days later the police arrived at her home.
Police have defended the investigation, stressing that allegations of this nature are taken “very seriously” and needed to be “properly investigated”.
A spokesperson for Sussex Police said they had “received a report on July 20 of a person being required to perform forced or compulsory labour”.
“On July 26, a woman from Uckfield, who had offered to host the pair, was invited to attend a voluntary interview at Eastbourne police station with her solicitor on August 16. She was not arrested.
“Following that interview, the informant was approached on several occasions to provide a full statement, but was not willing to assist with further enquiries or to provide a formal account.
“As a result, it was judged that there was insufficient evidence for a prosecution and no further action would be taken. The woman’s solicitor was advised the same day of the decision.”
Detective Chief Inspector Gavin Patch added: “This investigation was expedited as quickly as possible, but given the nature of the allegations that were made, it was important that both sides were given the opportunity to provide their accounts of what had occurred and other agencies involved consulted.
“In this case, there was insufficient evidence to proceed, but we take any allegations of this nature very seriously and it is important that they are properly investigated.”
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Tens of thousands of Ukranians were welcomed to the UK after the war with Russia began
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