AN Oxfordshire councillor is concerned that he will no longer be allowed to host a Ukrainian refugee after it was suggested his home may fail to meet safety requirements.

Giles Cattermole, who lives in High Street in Wallingford, wants to raise awareness after Oxfordshire Fire and Rescue Service suggested his home may not meet the fire safety standards of a house in multiple occupation (HMO).

The Wallingford town councillor’s home became an HMO when taking in Eleanor, a Ukrainian refugee, earlier this year under the Government’s Home for Ukraine scheme.

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After his home was assessed by Oxfordshire County Council, he was told he needed fire alarms which were then installed by the fire service for free.

It was during the installation the fire service suggested Mr Cattermole may need to make further changes to his home in order to meet the HMO Management Regulations.

“My home is a very unusual house because most of it is my wood workshop,” said Mr Cattermole. “However, Eleanor is using the bedroom on the bottom floor and everything else is on the top floor including the kitchen, lounge, and bathroom.

“We were told the house needed some smoke detectors and the fire service came and started making comments about fire issues around the house, saying, ‘Oh that needs changed, that won’t work.’

“We made the point that the bedroom is on the bottom floor and Eleanor can just walk out of the doors in her bedroom and get outside so she is only at risk when she is on the top floor.

“I spoke to Eleanor and asked if she feels at risk and she said no.”

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Though Mr Cattermole has not been officially told he needs to make any changes, he is worried he may no longer be eligible under the scheme to host a refugee if the changes are later enforced.

He said: “I’m happy to look after her and she’s happy to stay here so I would continue to look after her without the monthly Government payments.

“But the question is are the council going to say, ‘No, the fire service said it was a risk so she can’t stay?’

“They haven’t explicitly said I need a fire escape at the moment but they said I need to clear out my workshop as it’s a fire risk but it would impact the way I work.”

Mr Cattermole wants to raise awareness as other hosts in similar situations may not be able to afford to continue looking after a refugee if homes do not meet safety standards.

“That would be a disappointment,” said Mr Cattermole. It’s a duty to look after them.”  

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A spokesperson for South Oxfordshire District Council said: “We work very closely with all hosts to make sure that their properties follow the Homes for Ukraine sponsor guidance set out by the government, which requires properties to be free from serious health and safety hazards and are safe and in a suitable condition. The nature of any changes required can vary depending on the property and the number of people living there.

“We have not had the need to discuss any enforcement action related the Homes for Ukraine scheme as our hosts have all carried out the work required on the occasions it has been needed.”


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This story was written by Gee Harland. She joined the team in 2022 as a senior multimedia reporter.

Gee covers Wallingford, Wantage and Didcot.

Get in touch with her by emailing:

Follow her on Twitter @Geeharland

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