After charities see ‘a lot of disputes’, are we doing enough to support Ukrainian refugees?
'I don’t think people really thought it through'
Dear readers — today’s briefing looks at how Ukrainian refugees are settling in on Merseyside. We also recommend a tribute to the Bebington-born journalist Dom Phillips, who was killed in the Amazon rainforest on 5 June.
Over the weekend, we published a piece about the founders of a radical 1970s newspaper called the Liverpool Free Press. Thanks to Kevin Donovan for this comment about the piece:
The Free Press was amazing in exposing corruption and racism (plus ça change etc!) and being firmly on the side of people who were the victims and the exploited. You can understand why those of us who were around at the time welcome The Post, which offers decent writing and the hope of some progressive journalism to counteract the drab and/or pernicious corporate bilge which perverts public discourse.
Last week, we sent two great newsletters to our paying members. The first was an interview with a RMT union boss covering the North West who told us he fears “blood and bodies on the track” as maintenance workers are increasingly pushed to work longer hours, plus a nice piece about a 4am game of cricket in Sefton Park on summer solstice. The second was a tribute to the outgoing leader of the Young Everyman and Playhouse. We loved hearing from those who thrived in the theatre programme, like this reader:
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The big story: After charities see ‘a lot of disputes’, are we doing enough to support Ukrainian refugees?
Top line: Last week marked four months since the Russian invasion of Ukraine. As of 3 June, over 65,000 Ukrainian refugees had arrived in the UK, some with family visas or with the Homes for Ukraine Sponsorship Scheme, where people offer their homes to people fleeing Ukraine. How is it working out on Merseyside?
Here’s one example: A mother of four in Prenton, who is hosting Mila, Nazar and Tonya, who fled their home in Kyiv, told the Echo:
It’s a lovely feeling to be able to do this and so far it’s been a really great experience. There’s going to be days where it’s a bit awkward and crowded and stressful but I’m just glad that I can help and it feels like the right thing to do. I couldn’t not do it.
While there are positive stories, charities have also warned about the risk of homelessness and breakdowns in relationships between host families and new arrivals from Ukraine.
Sabra Ahmed, operational manager for Wirral Change, who provide an outreach service for refugees and help them access local services and mental health support, says she’s seeing “a lot of disputes”:
Everything happened so quick. People were very generous, but I don’t think people really thought it through. We’re getting a lot of disputes. People falling out with their hosts. I just think because things have not been thought through, there is a difference between their intentions and the logistics of a family coming to live with them.
The Homes for Ukraine scheme offers a £350 monthly payment for up to 12 months for hosts once the local council has inspected the quality of accommodation, but some host families didn’t anticipate how expensive it can be, according to Ahmed. It can take six to eight weeks for benefits claims by Ukrainian arrivals to come through — during that time, host families are paying for food, water and bills.
Homelessness: According to Home Office data, as of 3 June, five Ukrainian refugee households were homeless or at risk of homelessness after arriving in the Wirral. In one case, the accommodation wasn’t suitable on arrival, and in three instances the arrangement with hosts broke down. The other was for an unspecified reason. Two of these families have now been rematched to new hosts, and another had homelessness duties ended for an unspecified reason by the council. Across England there were 660 Ukrainian households facing homelessness.
A spokesperson for the Department of Levelling Up, Housing and Communities said the majority of families are settling in well but in a minority of cases where things don’t work out, councils should ensure families have a roof over their head.
Ewan Roberts, centre manager of Asylum Link Merseyside, who provide advice services to refugees and asylum seekers in the city region, says he’s not surprised by the data. “The Government scheme was made up on the back of a fag packet and, like all this government’s schemes, is designed to look good rather than having substance behind it… It is utterly chaotic and local authorities and ordinary people are left to pick their way through the mess.”
Bottom line: Wirral Change is working with around 1,500 Ukrainian individuals and fighting for them to find access to suitable hosts, but it wants this enhanced support extended to all refugees. Ahmed says: “My personal and professional view is that this community needs help. It’s nice to see that there is a human response but it would be nice to see that across other communities.”
Your Post news briefing
The journalist Dom Phillips, originally from Bebington, has been laid to rest in Brazil. He disappeared with the Indigenous expert Bruno Pereira while travelling on the Itaquaí River, and the men’s bodies were recovered on 15 June when two fishermen confessed to their murder. The region has a long history of conflict between Indigenous tribes and fishermen hired to enter the valley to hunt for arapaima, turtles and game, and the Guardian writes that their deaths highlight “the historic assault on Indigenous communities and the environment that has unfolded under Brazil’s far-right president, Jair Bolsonaro.”
Research by the Resolution Foundation think tank says only poorer ares of London and Hackney have seen significant improvement in incomes over the last 25 years and that true levelling up will cost the government billions more than it is currently spending. It also found disparities in the incomes different households receive from investments, such as stocks and shares. In 2019, people living in Camden made £9,135 from investments, compared with £806 per person in Knowsley.
Criminal barristers walked out of Crown Courts today in a strike over inadequate funding. They say specialist criminal barristers make an average annual income of £12,200 after expenses in the first three years of practice, which has led 22% of junior criminal barristers to leave the profession since 2016. At the strike in Manchester, a barrister named Mira Hammad, who is based in Liverpool, said the justice system is “falling apart” and cases aren’t going ahead because there aren’t enough barristers, judges or court resources.
Home of the week
A Grade II listed three-bedroom home is on the market for £320,000 in Woolton. It has a beautiful front courtyard for hosting and retains original features.
🎸 Alternative Australian singer-songwriter Courtney Barnett is performing at the Invisible Wind Factory on Thursday evening. Tickets here.
🌲 There’s a meditative walk through Wirral Forest on Thursday evenings which hopes to create a mindful experience and allow you to silently contemplate nature. Each session starts with a group check in. Tickets are £5.
🇯🇵 There’s a free celebration of Japanese culture at the Liverpool Guild on Saturday. The festival is held every two years and alternates between Manchester and Liverpool. Expect a martial arts display, Taiko drumming, Japanese enka blues singing, plus a dance performance — audience participation is encouraged.
🗣 The community organisation Ignite Liverpool is hosting a free discussion at Liverpool Central Library on Saturday, centred around the question ‘Liverpool 2050: how can we build a resilient city — one that is thriving, fair and sustainable?’. It includes a talk by longtime Post reader Elke Weissmann on why “active travel” (walking, cycling etc) is the answer.
🏊♀️ The female-led theatre Tmesis have secured funding for a mural on the former Victorian bathhouse in L8 and they’re looking for input. Meet them on Saturday afternoon to share your memories and personal stories about the baths.
Our favourite reads
An obituary to Dom Phillips in The Guardian tells the story of his childhood, from playing guitar in bands in Liverpool to making his first trip into the Javari valley in Brazil and being told at a press conference by the Brazilian president when he asked about a surge in forest fires: “The Amazon is Brazil’s, not yours”. It also features a beautiful passage from his wife Alê Sampaio, who says: “He is now a hero, but Dom had no ego so if he is looking at this, he would think it is not for me, this is for the rainforest and the people who preserve it. The attention would make him happy for that reason.”
Another great feature about Tony Chestnut Brown, better known as the people’s poet of Liverpool, in The Critical Friend, the newsletter for the South Liverpool Debating Society. “One of the most enjoyable meals I have ever had was with Tony in Keith’s Wine Bar on Lark Lane. I remember we each had half a dozen oysters (he later asked the cook if she had any leftover seconds) and a bottle of good Chilean wine — he made the recommendations regarding the wine and clearly had an intimate knowledge of the cellar… In a way there was no separation between Tony Chestnut Brown the artist and the Tony Chestnut Brown who enquired of the cook whether she, by any chance, had any leftover Oysters in the pan.”
We enjoyed this profile of Mandy Vere in Liverpolitan, who ran the radical women’s bookshop News from Nowhere. She discusses how a “one-party politics” system is undemocratic and susceptible to corruption, her memories of the bookshop being targeted by fascist groups aligned with the National Front in the 1980s and her own experiences with the policing and justice system: she was jailed for six months in 1979 for the importation of cannabis (she says a customer had posted a package for themselves to the shop and it was intercepted). “Knitting, yoga sessions, and learning to type passed the time and Mandy taught a fellow inmate to read via the pages of The Guardian which her parents would regularly send to her.”
A nice review in The Times of Paul McCartney’s headline performance at Glastonbury on Saturday night. Chief rock critic Will Hodgkinson writes that the performance was replete with cliches — rehashing the tale of “four lads from Liverpool who formed a band and did OK for themselves” — but the lack of perfection was what made it so charming. “McCartney’s concert was filled with the ups and downs of life itself, and that is why it was one of the greatest concerts of all time… We were standing before the life’s work of a man who has soundtracked the late 20th and early 21st-century experience.”
Photo of the week
20 Forthlin Road, Paul McCartney’s childhood home from 1955, photographed by Hannah Cassidy.
Letters from readers
I wanted to thank you for the brief but very timely, vividly written and informative interview with John Tilley about the current rail strikes, why they are happening and what the context is — I hadn't read elsewhere, for example, that the signalmen had not voted to strike since 1994. More of this kind of thing please! ‘A former railway signalman fears ‘blood and bodies on the track’’ Kaz
Wouldn’t be the person I am today without it, or without the people who supported me there. Big place in my heart forever ‘The youthful, ingenious spirit of the Young Everyman and Playhouse’, Natalie Vaughan
Yet again, you have written a fine piece on something which impinged on most of our lives. Thank you. I was a great admirer of the Free Press, although not knowing any of the protagonists at the time. I did work professionally with the admirable Rob afterwards, and am saddened at his death. May you and your colleagues continue and flourish in continuing your human but acerbic alternative ‘What happened to five journalists behind a radical Liverpool newspaper?’, Stuart Richman