Ukrainian refugee reported mother who took her in to the police for making her do the DISHES

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An NHS mental health specialist who took in a Ukrainian refugee was reported for modern day slavery after she asked her guest to help out more with the dishes – as she warns would-be hosts to ‘think twice’ before offering up their homes.

Hannah Debenham, 42, of Uckfield, Sussex, was under investigation for two months following the accusation, before the case was dropped this week when no supporting evidence was found. 

The mother-of-two was asked to ‘voluntarily’ attend Eastbourne police station where she was questioned by a modern day slavery inspector, which she branded ‘the worst day of my life’. Police also spent two hours at her home with her husband.  

She told MailOnline: ‘It was just devastating. 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 also spoke to my husband and told him that I could face life in prison if I was found guilty. 

‘I’ve been an NHS mental health specialist for 15 years and have often worked with people being questioned and charged by police. It was the worst thing that has ever happened to me.’ 

Ms Debenham said her solicitor described the action by Sussex Police as an ‘outrageous overreach.’ 

The Ukrainian family had been living with Ms Debenham for just three weeks when the accusation was levelled. The mother cannot be named as complainants of modern slavery are awarded anonymity. 

The saga began when Ms Debenham and her husband, who also works in the NHS, were looking for an Au Pair to work in their eight-bedroom home. 

Ms Debenham said her solicitor described the action by Sussex Police as an 'outrageous overreach.' The Ukrainian family had been living with Ms Debenham for just three weeks when the accusation was levelled (Pictured: Ukrainian refugee with her son. She cannot be identified as a complainant of modern day slavery is awarded anonymity)

Ms Debenham said her solicitor described the action by Sussex Police as an ‘outrageous overreach.’ The Ukrainian family had been living with Ms Debenham for just three weeks when the accusation was levelled (Pictured: Ukrainian refugee with her son. She cannot be identified as a complainant of modern day slavery is awarded anonymity)

They stumbled upon the profile of a 36-year-old Ukrainian woman who claimed she was also an English teacher, and reached out to her to see if she would be a good fit. 

According to Ms Debenham, they came to an agreement that would allow her and her 10-year-old daughter to stay with them on the basis that she would perform babysitting duties for two to three days a week, for which she would be paid £200.

Ms Debenham filled out the paperwork via the Government’s Homes for Ukraine scheme, which she said was accepted ‘remarkably quickly.’ 

Upon their arrival in late June, Ms Debenham set about preparing them for life in the UK, helping them sort out benefits, bank accounts and a school place for the young girl. 

However, as with many other reported cases, things began to fall apart due to the stark cultural differences. 

‘The first couple of weeks, the honeymoon period, were fine,’ Ms Debenham recalled, ‘but they did not clear up after themselves, the amount of dishes to be done quickly doubled. 

‘The mother used a new glass every time she got a glass of water or drink, for example.’ 

The mothers then had an argument after Ms Debenham was unable to drive her guest to an appointment as she was working from home. 

‘She slammed the door on me,’ Ms Debenham recalled, ‘and I just thought wow how could she treat me this way. 

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‘I had driven her to so many doctors and benefits appointments, but I explained to her that she just had to respect that I work and cannot always be available to drive her.’ 

The mothers then had an argument after Ms Debenham was unable to drive the Ukrainian to an appointment as she was working from home (Pictured: Ukrainian mother's advert on AuPair.com)

The mothers then had an argument after Ms Debenham was unable to drive the Ukrainian to an appointment as she was working from home (Pictured: Ukrainian mother’s advert on AuPair.com)

Things came to a head when the Ukrainian mother took Ms Debenham’s five-year-old son with her to visit the nearby school. 

When the boy told her that he needed the toilet, she allegedly instructed him to use the open field next to the playground, wiping his bottom with leaves. 

‘Our house was just two minutes away, and why could she not ask someone at the school if he could use the toilet? She was shocked that I was upset and said she would not have told me if she knew I would have reacted that way. 

‘I felt I could no longer fully trust her with my children and we decided that the arrangement was no longer working for us. I told her that when her benefits came through she should find somewhere else to live.’ 

Just days later, Ms Debenham claims she received a call from her Ukrainian guest while at work, in which she told her she was leaving. 

Moments later, police officers arrived at the home asking to speak to Ms Debenham. They then phoned her and told her she had been accused of slavery. They spent two hours speaking her husband at the property before grilling her for an hour-and-a-half at the station. 

A police report seen by MailOnline said the Ukrainian mother had alleged she was ‘made to work most days, looking after the children and expected to clear up and tidy up the house.’

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It alleged that she was being ‘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.’ 

Charges were never brought against Ms Debenham as police found no evidence to support the claim. The Ukrainian mother did not respond to MailOnline’s request for comment. 

A spokesperson for Sussex Police said: ‘Sussex Police received a report on July 20 of a person being required to perform forced or compulsory labour. The informant was a woman with a young daughter who had arrived in the UK under the Homes for Ukraine scheme.

‘On July 26, a woman from Uckfield, who had offered to host the pair, was invited to attend a voluntary interview at Eastbourne police station with her solicitor on August 16. She was not arrested. 

‘Following that interview, the informant was approached on several occasions to provide a full statement, but was not willing to assist with further enquiries or to provide a formal account.

‘As a result, it was judged that there was insufficient evidence for a prosecution and no further action would be taken. The woman’s solicitor was advised the same day of the decision.’

Detective Chief Inspector Gavin Patch said: ‘This investigation was expedited as quickly as possible, but given the nature of the allegations that were made, it was important that both sides were given the opportunity to provide their accounts of what had occurred and other agencies involved consulted.

‘In this case, there was insufficient evidence to proceed, but we take any allegations of this nature very seriously and it is important that they are properly investigated.’

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