Leeds Council giving out £500 monthly 'thank you' payments to families as Leeds mum says Ukraine refugee has become her 'second daughter'
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Now, amid the ongoing cost of living crisis and plunging winter temperatures, the local authority has said it will boost the payments as it urges new hosts to consider joining the scheme. The cash increase of £150 will be added to the monthly payments until March, 2023.
Since March this year, a total of 326 people in Leeds have been “active sponsors” and kindly opened up their homes to support some 644 Ukrainian refugees, according to the council. The statistics come as a woman in Leeds who is hosting a Ukrainian refugee has told of how she feels “like a second daughter to her”.
Georgia Cooper, who lives in Leeds, is continuing to host her guest Olha Pravdenko, who has settled with her in the city.
"My daughter had left home so I had a room and it seemed unfair not to offer that room to somebody who needed it,” she said.
"I don't know if Olha knows that I think this but I see her as another daughter really.”
Ms Cooper also warned that being a host household would take “a lot of your time”. She added: “Don't underestimate that. But it's very rewarding.”
Olha, who is living with Ms Cooper, said she worked as a journalist and communication specialist in Ukraine before coming to the UK, following the outbreak of the war with Russia.
"To be honest I miss my family, I miss my country," she said.
"War changed my life. I think war changed the lives of every Ukrainian.”
Olha said her Ms Cooper met her at the airport when she arrived as a refugee from Ukraine, holding flowers as a gift.
"And I think our friendship began here. Leeds is a big city and I think Leeds is England's heart. I have found friends here in Leeds.”
As the first six months of the scheme draws to a close, the council said there was now a need to bring “new hosts on board” who can offer a home with more than one bedroom available.
Support from the council, its partner organisations and various charities will be available throughout the scheme for hosts and guests.
Coun Mary Harland, Leeds City Council’s executive member for communities, said: “Leeds is a warm and welcoming city where more than 600 Ukrainian guests have already settled thanks to the ongoing help of our fantastic hosting families. This is a fantastic achievement, and I would like to thank everyone in Leeds who has worked to give our Ukrainian guests a warm welcome, especially those who have shared their homes and lives.
“Many Ukrainian families have already settled and rebuilt their lives here in Leeds and many have jobs, will have made friends and joined schools. We hope that by increasing the payment, we will be able to help hosts with any rising costs they may face and encourage them to continue with the scheme or entice new hosts in similar areas."