PEOPLE who have taken in Ukrainian refugees are seeing their household bills skyrocket and feel ignored by the state, the Dáil has been told.
Although they don’t regret their decision for a moment, they don’t receive any financial help – and their energy and food bills have increased.
In the meantime, the Ukrainians involved need their welfare payments for themselves, said Louth’s independent TD Peter Fitzpatrick.
He said he has been approached by families, some of whom have driven to the airport to offer accommodation, who now feel isolated without support.
They expected the war to last only a few weeks, he said.
The British government pays 350 euros a month to Ukrainian refugees, but Ireland pays nothing. “We have to support the Irish who have been good enough to open their homes,” Fitzpatrick said.
The homeowners who took in refugees would do so again at any time, he said. “But they have very little or no contact with the relevant government agencies and no support whatsoever.
“They feel they have no one to turn to for support and advice. As I said earlier, they have absolutely no regrets about opening their homes to Ukrainian refugees, but they find it difficult and financially challenging. They have increased energy and food bills,” Mr Fitzpatrick told the Taoiseach.
“But when they seek support and help from these departments, they feel ignored. The commercial hotels and bed-and-breakfasts are paid to house Ukrainian refugees, but the people who have opened our homes to the same refugees receive no support. Drawbacks need to be addressed.”
Mr Fitzpatrick added: “We must come to the aid of the Ukrainians in their distress, but we must also support the Irish who have been good enough to open their homes. Unlike boarding houses or commercial hotels, these people do not receive any support in taking in refugees.”
He said the Taoiseach made it clear in his address to President Zelenskyy that “our houses are your houses,” but it is right to take care of those who take care of them in a family atmosphere.
“The Irish have always gone above and beyond when needed and would do it again. But they have absolutely no support.
“They take Ukrainian children to school every day and do a bunch of other things, and they’re looking for absolutely nothing. But everything is getting more expensive.”
In response, Taoiseach Micheál Martin commended all those volunteers “who are doing so much to help Ukrainian refugees settle in this country” but did not specifically address Mr Fitzpatrick’s concerns, although he does acknowledge the point.
“As I said this morning, our home is your home and the initial focus of our response was primarily accommodation. To date, 19,283 people have arrived from Ukraine, of whom 11,800 have been looking for accommodation. So it was a huge effort. We have never had to react so quickly to such a refugee crisis.”
However, Mr Martin noted that there is “instant income support in terms of social protection as soon as refugees come into the country”.
He also said that the community response forums now established would ensure that each local authority would coordinate local responses to the Ukraine crisis. But he didn’t mention Social Security payments for homestays.
Mr Fitzpatrick said the families were not looking for profit. They are only looking for support for the additional costs incurred.
“These families went to Dublin Airport and picked up these families in good faith. And then they realized that here comes a serious price. They have kids of their own and ESB bills and other bills are all going up.
“The government is fast enough to pay the hotels and B&Bs. These refugees get welfare, which is fine, but they need the money for themselves.
“They thought this war would last maybe four or five weeks. Now the families suddenly don’t know anymore. But Taoiseach, not one family who contacted me, said they would change their minds. But they can’t afford to pay the bills.
“The last thing you want is a conflict between them. We did very well in Ukraine – please don’t put that down.”
Mr Martin said he appreciated “where the deputy is coming from”.
Meanwhile, 2,000 Ukrainian refugees are being housed in college accommodation during the summer months.
Education Minister Simon Harris said today: “We have now significantly increased the number of student accommodations we can provide Ukrainian refugees for the summer months.
“We had previously confirmed that 1,000 student beds would be available to Ukrainian refugees for the summer period and this would provide an opportunity for housing but also a little time while the state makes more short-term arrangements.”
The refugees are accommodated in the university’s own student housing, which is usually housed on campus from May to August.
Previously, it was planned that 1,000 refugees would be accommodated in student accommodation.
https://www.independent.ie/irish-news/families-who-have-taken-in-ukrainian-refugees-are-seeing-household-bills-soar-and-need-help-dail-hears-41527309.html Families who have taken in Ukrainian refugees are seeing household bills skyrocket and need help, Dáil hears