A UK mother has been questioned by police over alleged slavery after asking a Ukrainian refugee she was hosting to help out with the dishes.
Hannah Debenham opened her house to a Ukrainian refugee and her daughter under the UK Government’s Homes For Ukraine scheme, which pays residents £350 ($A635) a month to host Ukrainian refugees.
Responding to an ad on an au pair website, Ms Debenham had arranged to host the 36-year-old Ukrainian woman, who cannot be named, and her 10-year-old daughter.
The woman agreed to babysit Ms Debenham’s two children two to three days a week in exchange for lodging and £200 ($A360).
As the relationship between the two women deteriorated, however, Ms Debenham found herself being questioned by police for an hour and a half over allegations she had taken the Ukrainian woman in as a slave.
“It was just devastating,” Ms Debenham told MailOnline. “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 spoke to my husband and told him that I could face life in prison if I was found guilty.”
The accusation came as tension gradually built between the families, with Ms Debenham claiming her house was not being respected.
“The first couple of weeks, the honeymoon period, were fine, but (the woman and her daughter) did not clear up after themselves, the amount of dishes to be done quickly doubled,” she said.
“I explained to her that she needed to help out more, we even showed her how to use the dishwasher.
“I understand that she was in a terrible situation having fled from her country and after losing friends to the war, but things did not improve.”
The situation reached breaking point when the Ukrainian woman took Ms Debenham’s five-year-old son to visit the nearby school, where he needed to use the toilet. She allegedly told him to use the open field next to the playground and wipe his bottom with leaves.
“I felt I could no longer fully trust her with my children and we decided that the arrangement was no longer working for us,” Ms Debenham told the publication.
“I told her that when her benefits came through, she should find somewhere else to live.”
In a matter of days, Ms Debenham had been contacted by Sussex Police over allegations the Ukrainian woman had been “used as a slave and full-time child minder for little to no pay under the disguise of assisting her in the Ukrainian settlement scheme”.
After two hours spent talking to her husband at their house, and a further hour and a half talking to her at the police station, police dropped the charges against Ms Debenham.
According to police, “it was judged that there was insufficient evidence for a prosecution and no further action would be taken”.