Council responds to concerns that £200 initial payment to Ukrainian refugees coming to Northampton are wrongly being issued as vouchers

"Ukrainians being hosted in Rugby are receiving cash but here in Crick with WNC it is vouchers."

By Logan MacLeod
Wednesday, 20th April 2022, 4:46 pm

West Northamptonshire Council (WNC) has moved to allay concerns that finances to help Ukrainian refugees are being distributed incorrectly.

The council provided an update on Tuesday (April 19) about payments to Ukrainian refugees fleeing the war.

The government recently announced that every Ukrainian refugee will be given a £200 payment under its Homes for Ukraine initiative.

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West Northamptonshire Council has provided an update over the Ukrainian resettlement scheme's finances

The payment given to each refugee is to cover the cost of immediate essentials, such as food, clothing and toiletries, before universal credit is made available.

However, there has been some confusion about why WNC has been issuing vouchers instead of cash payments.

One woman, who welcomed a refugee family into her Northamptonshire home at the weekend, took to Facebook to share her concerns.

She said: "My family and I are hosting a lovely Ukrainian family.

"The homes for Ukraine scheme stipulates that each person who arrives in the UK is entitled to £200 per person interim payment to tide them over until they either find a job or receive benefits. The scheme advises that this is paid in cash.

"Our council has decided to provide vouchers for outlets instead of cash - they can't be used in Crick, they can't be used to get on a bus. So, for local purposes, it is useless.

"I have spent the past 10 days fighting with WNC to argue that the freedom of choice and financial independence has been taken away from those arriving here. This is untenable.

"Ukrainians being hosted in Rugby are receiving cash but here in Crick with WNC it is vouchers."

Councillor David Smith, cabinet member at WNC, responded saying the scheme is “just a few weeks old” and the situation is “changing rapidly”.

He said: “We’ve put in place the voucher scheme which has worked really well for seven months as part of our Afghan Resettlement Scheme, recognised as having some of the best provision across the whole of the UK.

“We’ve recently received feedback that we need to look at alternatives, so we’re looking at this and hope to have news on this in the coming days.

"For example we are considering a pre-paid card which can be used like a debit card, but we have to look at what is workable in distributing the government payments quickly and effectively."

A WNC spokesman added that the council is predominantly a “cashless organisation” – meaning it cannot generally conduct physical cash transactions in a “timely or low risk way”, which also helps “prevent vulnerable people from being targeted or taken advantage of”.

Rugby Borough Council has been contacted to confirm if it is issuing cash payments but has not yet responded.

As of April 5, 1,200 Ukrainians had arrived in the UK under the sponsorship scheme which allows members of the public to offer up their spare bedrooms or homes to refugees fleeing the war.

The scheme attracted huge interest when it launched almost a month ago but analysis found an average of 67 people have arrived in the country each day from its launch on March 18 to April 5.

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