Homelessness APPG

Meeting on the health effects of temporary accommodation on unders fives.

Tuesday 8th June saw the Magpie Project give evidence to the All Party Parliamentary Group on ending homelessness.

Evidence was given by:

Kemi, member of our Magpie Mums Leadership team.

Professor Monica Lakhanpaul – professor of integrated community child health at university college London and Great Ormond Street Institute of Child Health and consultant paediatrician at Whittington Health NHS Trust.

Maxine Jenkins – specialist community public health nurse and queen’s nurse representing 33 health visitors working with families experiencing homelessness nationally.

Dr Sarah Cockman – outreach paediatrician for homeless families, Shared Health Foundation.

Thelma, expert by experience.


Evidence presented

The panel presented evidence for the health risks of temporary or insecure housing on children, especially those under five. These include.

  • For developing foetuses and newborns this can include premature births, low birth weight or stillbirth.
  • For young children this may include lower rates of GP registration, school readiness, higher rates of
    hospital admissions, missed immunisations, development delays (both physical and in the brain), or
    chronic health issues.
  • For children between 5-19 years this can include substantial behavioural and emotional problems,
    increased risk of injury, childhood obesity, lower school attainment, substance use, and suicide risk.
  • In the worst cases this can even lead to child mortality – 156 child deaths between 1 April 2019 and 31
    March 2020 were directly attributable to housing problems or homelessness.

    The impact of covid
    Organisations working on the frontline of these sectors told the APPG how the pandemic has
    worsened this – reports of child mental health ill-health, domestic abuse, poverty and nutritional deficits have all
    increased, while contact with support services have reduced. This has also been exacerbated by rapid moves
    between accommodation and digital exclusion.
    These problems could be preventable with better data: Clear from their testimonies was that the majority of these
    problems experienced by homeless children could be prevented and the urgent need for better data through a
    notification system, which would strengthen the provision of targeted support for children in these circumstances.
  • As it stands, children who are homeless are often hidden from services that are designed to protect
    them. Currently, local education, health, housing and other support services have their own data
    systems for their clients.
  • This means that when vulnerable or at-risk children move into new or between temporary
    accommodation settings, vital local services are not informed of their move into the area.
  • These children are effectively invisible to services and left without essential health, social and
    emotional support.
  • Many of these children subsequently experience a multitude of preventable problems which can lead to
    longer-term problems such as chronic ill-health, homelessness, destitution, or social exclusion.
  • A notification system would facilitate a greater understanding of the needs of children experiencing
    homelessness and improve the provision of local targeted support.
    Without the data from a notification systems, children will remain hidden from services, and unable to access the
    vital support they need.

Key stats


• 98,300 households in temporary accommodation in England in June 2020, which included 127,240 children.

• Further 90,000 children are estimated to be sofa surfing situations England by the Children’s Commissioner.

•Number of children in temporary accommodation has Increased by 75% in the last 10 years.

• 391% increase in the number of households placed in temporary accommodation
outside of their local authority between the end of June 2010 and the end of June 2020.

• 156 child deaths between 1 April 2019 and 31 March 2020 were directly attributable to housing
problems or homelessness.

What we want MPs to do

  1. Sign the cross-party letter to Ministers Jo Churchill and Eddie Hughes which is calling for the implementation
    of a notification system to ensure that children and families who are homeless can be guided through the
    system safely.
  2. Sign up to be a member of the APPG on Households in Temporary Accommodation where you will have a
    chance to learn more about the impact of prolonged stays in temporary accommodation and support the
    recommended policy changes needed to protect the health and wellbeing of families staying in them.

What we want you to do

  1. Write to your MP and ask them to become a member of the APPG for ending homelessness and the APPG on households in Temporary accommodation.
  2. Ask your MP to call for a notification system for families moving in to temporary accommodation.
  3. Ask your MP to back minimum, enforceable standards for temporary, emergency, Section 17 and Home office accommodation.

Newham Mayor writes open letter about unsuitable accommodation provided by NASS and Clearsprings

Copyright: Laura Dodsworth. One Room Lockdown.

We are incredibly grateful to Rokhsana Fiaz, Mayor of Newham, for listening to our mums who are living in unsuitable National Asylum Seeker accommodation.

The quality of this accommodation has, for a long time, been very poor. Issues include frequent infestations, damp, material degradation, and a lack of adequate safety measures such as fire doors, fire exits etc.

This is bad at the best of time but during the pandemic and lockdown – as other families were moved in to self contained accommodation to reduce the risk of infection and to safeguard families by making sure they can socially distance from other families – our asylum seeking mothers and children were left, sometimes 4 to one room in a shared house, to cope.

We are incredibly grateful to the Mayor for listening to our mothers and writing an open letter on the issue to the Home Office.

Here it is in its entirety:

We asked the Mayor about the use of B&Bs: this is the response….

At the first full council meeting under Rokhsana Fiaz’s Mayoralty (Mayorship?!) we asked a question – on behalf of our mums and minis who are still being placed in hotels such as the one below – about the use of B&Bs for families.

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She answered. See our question and her response here. We LOVE the words “compassion and care”. We understand – maybe better than most – the enormity of the problem. But we are SO heartened by this transparent and straightforward response.

Question 19 from the Magpie Project
Southwark council have eliminated the use of paid by the night bed and breakfast accommodation for families. Our social services and housing departments are still placing families fleeing domestic violence or families with children in this poor quality, noisy, intimidating environment. Can the council pledge to move towards a goal of no families with children in b and b accommodation by end 2019.

The Mayor has pledged to tackle homelessness with compassion and care, and the new administration will be looking to transform our homeless services and develop innovative forms of temporary accommodation, as well as increasing the delivery of council-owned homes at social rents. However, we are in the early stages of this new administration, and the scale of the challenge is significant.

Unfortunately changes in the Housing market and the Housing Benefit regime since 2011/12 has acted to increase both the numbers and the length of use of this type of temporary accommodation to meet our statutory responsibilities. In 2011/12, the Council received 624 homelessness applications, of which 248 were accepted, but by 2017/18 this had grown to 1793 of which 1143 were accepted.

Over the same period 2012 – 2018, the Council has seen the demand for nightly paid accommodation increase, whereby 148 households were in this form of accommodation in March 2012, but this had risen to 2904 households at the end of March 2018. Unfortunately, current forecasts are indicating that these numbers could continue to grow.

It has been this Council’s practice for some years to avoid the use of bed and breakfast/shared accommodation for homeless households who have dependant children or a member of the household is pregnant. The Council’s response has been to procure only self contained accommodation for this household group, albeit nightly paid, whilst it is determined whether the Council owe the main homelessness duty.

In the circumstances as part of work designed to transform the homelessness offer a health and safety survey has been commissioned for this year of all temporary accommodation, which has commenced with looking at that which is nightly paid. This will culminate in a comprehensive tenant survey.

However it is clear that alternative move on accommodation to that which the Council has relied upon for a number of years will continue to reduce and therefore the Council will be looking at innovative ways in meeting the manifesto pledge to provide additional accommodation at affordable rents, which includes a  programme of purchasing property, converting Council buildings where appropriate, considering the use of modular housing schemes on the many sites with a meanwhile use in the Borough and collaborative procurement of private rented sector accommodation with London Councils.