26 May 2022
Language 'barrier' for refugee given translator who couldn't speak Ukrainian
A Ukrainian journalist who fled Kyiv for Manchester says her mother was provided with a translator who spoke Russian, but not Ukrainian. Maria Romanenko's mum Tetiania came to the UK last month after being granted a visa, but on applying for the Universal Credit benefit, she received a shock. Maria, 29, said: "I heard my mum really struggling on the phone because she was talking to this Russian translator who was ignoring the fact that she was Ukrainian and pronouncing and spelling her name in Russian even though the Ukrainian spelling of her name is different. She looked really distressed. "I found out later that the DWP didn't have a Ukrainian interpreter. She was left mortified by the experience". Maria said her mother's mood had been "killed" by the experience and she didn't want to do anything that day. "It's very insensitive," she said. "There is this stereotype that Ukrainian and Russian are the same language. "It's wrong to say the languages are interchangeable and that a Ukrainian person wouldn't be offended by it." […]
In a statement, the DWP said they are mindful of the trauma many Ukrainians arriving in the UK have faced.
The statement read: "Our language services supplier has increased linguist resource significantly to deal with an upturn in Ukrainian language requirements for DWP customers and claimants can also give consent for others, such as friends or family members, to speak to us on their behalf.
"It is not our policy to provide a Russian speaking linguist in response to a request for a Ukrainian linguist.
"We apologise for the misunderstanding in this case and the distress caused."
Maria said her mum is struggling, adding: "She has never had to deal with the British system before so she needs a lot of support and I think instances like this really don't help. It just leaves her traumatised for a long time".