Newsnight investigation

We were happy to be part of a Newsnight investigation aired this week on the health hazards of substandard accommodation for many children in the UK.

We spoke alongside others such as the Shared Health Foundation, Professor Monika Lakhanpaul, and a brave Magpie Mum in home office accommodation to bring to light this often hidden problem.

124,000 children are at risk. Shocking statistics of how we, as a rich developed country, are jeopardising the health of our children by failing to provide adequate housing in the private, public, home office and social services sectors.

On seeing this film Sir Peter Bottomley MP said

‘If someone can give transcript of this programme to the prime-ministers office tomorrow we can start working on this together’.

He also stated that

‘Governnment departments often need nudging by MPs and by Media and by Voluntary organistions.

I think that the result of this programme will be that government departments will work together both local and nationally and if in a year’s time we are down 20,000 rather than 120,000 we will have made significant progress’

Who’s up for some ‘nudging’? Talk to your friends about this, find homeless and migrant organisations in your local area to support, and write to your MP so that these ‘hidden homeless’ rise up the agenda.

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.