Briton ‘will travel to Ukraine to care for autistic teenager’ after visa issues
A British woman is considering travelling to Ukraine to care for a severely autistic teenager after the Government said he cannot come to the UK via its visa scheme because he is under 18 and unaccompanied by a parent or guardian.
Julie Elliot, 61, and her husband Roger, 66, have 14 children together – four biological and 10 adopted – and hoped to welcome 16-year-old refugee Timothy Tymoshenko.
Their adopted children, who are aged between nine and 40, all have disabilities and eight of them still live at the couple’s home in the Ribble Valley, Lancashire.
Mr and Mrs Elliot worked as nurses before becoming full-time carers to their adopted family, being made MBEs in 2016 for services to children.
They were asked by a friend if they would consider taking in Timothy, who is currently living in Kyiv with his mother, Anna.
His mother wishes to remain in the Ukrainian capital after her eldest son was told to stay and fight, while Timothy’s 17-year-old brother, Yuri, has already escaped to Poland alone.
Timothy is severely autistic and non-verbal, and his mother has struggled to guide him into the local subway shelter for safety when the city has been shelled by the Russian army.
Russian forces withdrew from the area surrounding Kyiv in early April, but when bombs strike the city Timothy’s protestations against entering the bunker have put himself and those around him in danger.
“Autistic children can be quite difficult to manage and he’s becoming more and more distressed,” Mrs Elliot told the PA news agency.
“Timothy can’t talk and he can’t process what’s going on around him, so, unless he is in his familiar routine with all his things around him, everything can be very scary, even without a war.
“It is very difficult to get him to comply, and to get him into the subway can be really traumatic for his mum because he will fight her and run off because he doesn’t understand.
“His mum is trying to cope with a severely autistic child whilst there are bombs dropping around them.”
With documents proving permission from Timothy’s mother, Mrs Elliot applied for a visa for Timothy through the Homes For Ukraine scheme on March 30 but has received no response confirming or denying the visa and since been separately told he is ineligible because he is under 18.
When asked about Timothy’s case, a Government spokesman said: “Due to safeguarding requirements, unaccompanied minors are only eligible under the Homes For Ukraine scheme if they are reuniting with a parent or guardian in the UK.”
PA understands that the Government is continually reviewing its immigration policy and schemes, including Homes For Ukraine, and applications by people who are currently ineligible remain on hold in case changes are made to eligibility requirements.
The Government’s website on the Homes For Ukraine scheme explains this under-18s policy, but older versions of the web page on the Wayback Machine internet archive show that this detail was not added until April 12 – almost two weeks after Mrs Elliot made Timothy’s application.
“We just don’t know what to do next, it just feels like you’re shouting into the void,” Mrs Elliot said.
“We made sure that we had all the documents and his parent’s permission, and we included as much information about our plan to pick him up from Poland so he wouldn’t be travelling alone.
“It seems totally unnecessary for a young person like Timothy to be kept waiting, especially when we’ve got the medical evidence to back up what a dreadful and distressing situation he is in.
“We are quite prepared to finance everything – all we are asking is for him to be safe in the UK with us.”
Due to the severity of his disability, Timothy would struggle to flee Ukraine alone and, after the delay to his visa application, Mrs Elliot said she is now considering flying to Ukraine to assist his mother in caring for him.
“Timothy is in a really bad situation and his poor mum is in an even worse situation because she’s having to care for him on her own and he’s becoming so distressed that his behaviour is becoming a problem,” Mrs Elliot said.
“I think she’s afraid that if his behaviour escalates to the point where she can’t manage him anymore that he’ll have to go into one of these institutions.
“I am seriously thinking that I’m going to have to go and help her because I can’t leave her.
“I promised her over a month ago that I would help her – how can I just leave her like this?”
Mr and Mrs Elliot have bought clothing and prepared space in their home for Timothy in readiness for his arrival in the UK.Published: by Radio NewsHub