Visit our installation artwork at Coal Drops Yard: ALL OUR STORIES

8th July – 5 Sept

This collection of illustrated stories captures intergenerational narratives and amplifies the voices of children. From it, Bethany Williams, London-based sustainable fashion designer, humanitarian and artist, has created her first large scale public art work.

The works are a continuation of Williams’ ongoing project with two East London grassroots organisations: The Magpie Project, a charity that supports families who are homeless or at risk of homelessness; and ​London College of Fashion’s Making for Change, a fashion training and manufacturing programme operating from two fully equipped sites, established in 2014 at HMP Downview with a sister site based at Poplar Works.

Titled ‘All Our Stories’, the illustrations have been generated through an ongoing series of collaborative storytelling workshops with the children and mothers from the Magie Project and Making for Change communities. For the visuals, Williams teamed up with illustrator and artist Melissa Kitty Jarram to transform these stories into a series of illustrations that in turn have been transposed into flags.

Sustainable fashion designer, humanitarian and artist, Bethany Williams, unveils Coal Drops Yard's striking new flag installation, marking the designer's first ever large-scale artwork. A continuation of Williams' acclaimed fashion collection that launched at London Fashion Week 2021. The installation is comprised of 90 colourful, illustrated flags, which stretch between the iconic roofs of Coal Drops Yard. The artwork is the first life of the flags, and they will then be re-purposed into a limited edition, unisex fashion collection sold in Kiosk N1C in Coal Drops Yard and Browns Fashion.

Each storytelling workshop culminated in a variety of creative outcomes, as each of the different communities interpreted the brief in their own way. The stories shared below recollect childhood memories in many forms; folklore tales shared from generation to generation, bedtime chronicles and fairytales whilst others contain childhood stories and nostalgic recollections of real life memories. Recognising community childhood stories and narratives – whether they have a strong written tradition or not is important in terms of assigning value and sharing power.

Bethany Williams is the second artist to take on this textile commission for Coal Drops Yard. A key and unusual feature of this project is that the decommissioning process is at the forefront of the considerations. This is only the first life of this fabric: once the installation comes down the material will be turned into two collections, one available to buy from Kiosk N1C in Coal Drops Yard and one in collaboration with one of Williams’ key retailers.

Proceeds from the sales will then be donated back to the Magpie Project and Making for Change.

The flags themselves are created from an organic Hemp Slub and which is 100% recyclable. The material choice references the age-old practice of flag-making, considers the future of Hemp’s role in the textile industry, and reflects Coal Drops Yard as a destination for fashion.

ALL OUR STORIES

Dino, a Magpie Project community story

A knight finds an egg and keeps the egg. The egg hatches and becomes a dinosaur. The knight has to save a princess who lives in a tower. The knight rides the dinosaur everywhere and it climbs a tree. He finds the princess but doesn’t know how to get up the tower. But, the dinosaur can burp ladders! And he can fly if he farts. To find the princess he has to burp and fart. Each fart and burp (and picking of his nose!) helps him to save the princess. The knight and the dinosaur managed to save the princess, who liked farting, burping and picking her nose too. So they all farted and burped and picked their noses together!

Chaos, a Magpie Project community story

A wealthy merchant moved into a new province and built a big palace with a beautiful door, heavily adorned with gems and stones. The King’s guards found the lavish door and told the King about it. At night, all the villagers went to see the door glistening in the dark. The King grew jealous and, afraid that the Queen might think the merchant’s door was better, he too put up a beautiful, bejeweled door. But no one came to see it. The King sent the guards to steal the merchant’s door. The guards stole the door with all its gems. And so the merchant made a new door better than the first one.

This happened a few more times. Then the King summoned the merchant. The King said “I am the King of this region and it is a disgrace to me that your door is more beautiful than mine”. The merchant said “I didn’t mean to hurt you. Where I come from we had riches but then lost them. We worked hard and rebuilt our homes. I decorate my door so that people who are too embarrassed to ask for help can just take the gems.” The King felt ashamed and decided to put out a bag of gems for people to take them whenever they needed.

The moral of this story is that when you give, you don’t have to tell the person that you have helped them.

The Sun and Wind story, Bethany William’s childhood story

Once the Wind and the Sun came to have a quarrel. Both of them claimed to be stronger. At last they agreed to have a trial of strength. “Here comes a traveller. Let us see who can strip him of his clock,” said the Sun. The Wind agreed and chose to have the first turn. He blew in the hardest possible way. As a result, the traveller wrapped his cloak even more tightly around him. Then it was the turn of the brightly shining Sun. At first he shone very gently. So, the traveller loosened his cloak from his neck. The Sun went on shining brighter and brighter. The traveller felt hot. Before long he took off his cloak and put it in his bag. The Wind had to accept his defeat.

The moral of this story is that gentleness and kind persuasion win, where force and bluster fail.

A flag with two tales – Monkey, a Magpie Project community story
There was a cap seller in the village. One day he had sold lots of caps and was tired, so he sat under a tree. The tree was full of lots of monkeys who saw the seller sleeping. One monkey came down to take a cap from the seller’s bag and climbed back up the tree. The seller woke up and was shocked to see the bag was empty. “Hey monkey, give me my cap back!” Then he thought of an idea to get them back. He took off his own cap and threw it up. The monkey copied. The seller threw it on the ground. The monkey copied. The seller picked all the caps and put them in his bag!

Tiger, a Magpie Project community story
There once was a girl who, as she sat on the hillside watching the village cows, was bored. To amuse herself she took a great breath and sang out, “Tiger! Tiger! The Tiger is chasing the cow!” The villagers came running to help the girl drive the tiger away. But when they arrived, they found no tiger. The girl laughed at the sight of their angry faces. “Don’t cry ‘Tiger’, girl,” said the villagers, “when there’s no tiger!” They went grumbling back to the village. Later, the girl sang out again, “Tiger! Tiger! The Tiger is chasing the cows!” To her naughty delight, she watched the villagers run to help her drive the Tiger away. When the villagers saw no tiger they sternly said, “Save your frightened song for when there is really something wrong! Don’t cry ‘Tiger’ when there is NO tiger!” But the girl just grinned and watched them go grumbling back to the village.

Later, she saw a REAL tiger prowling about the cows. Alarmed, she leapt to her feet and sang out as loudly as he could, “Tiger! Tiger!” But the villagers thought she was trying to fool them again, and so they didn’t come. At sunset, everyone wondered why the girl hadn’t returned to the village with their cows. They went up the field to find the girl. They found her weeping. “There really was a Tiger here! The cows have scattered! I cried out, “Tiger!” Why didn’t you come?” An old woman tried to comfort the girl as they walked back to the village. “Nobody believes a liar… even when she is telling the truth.

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.

All Our Stories: a collaboration

Saturday 12th of June at 12pm sustainable fashion designer, humanitarian and artist, Bethany Williams, launched her latest collection, All Our Stories.  

“She still wears stories passed down to her by her mother. Words that no longer fit the same way because life has stretched and changed its shape, but the moral of the story remains. Like the smile on her face. Her joy is new, even though the ending is not. She has not forgotten the promise she made, never to waste these old, tattered tales but to tell them to her children – again and again. To get to the end and watch them smile. They are their stories now. They are All Our Stories.” – Eno Mfon, Spoken Word Poet 

All Our Stories is inspired by Bethany’s continued work with East London grassroots organisation, The Magpie Project, a charity that supports women and children under five who are homeless or at risk of homelessness. The Magpie project works to make sure that a spell in insecure or temporary accommodation does not result in permanent damage to the life chances of the children who experience it.  

Artist Melissa Kitty Jarram –  inspired by the folklore passed from generation to generation and childhood stories that continue to inform us in our adult lives – ran a storytelling workshops with the Magpie families and illustrated the magical narratives they shared. She then used waste book covers in her illustrations to tell a new story. 

The collection focuses on five main storylines shared by the families of the Magpie Project, “AOS”, “Blessing”, “Dinosaurs” and “The Girl Who Cried Tiger”, as well as Bethany’s own, “The Sun and The Wind” childhood story. 

 “What we noticed through the story-telling workshops, was that the moral in each story always came back to kindness, care, and respect for one another and how these traits, whilst important in childhood, have just as much meaning in adult life.” Bethany Williams 

Working closely with Jane Williams, the founder of the Magpie Project, Bethany Williams will continue the theme of the collection in a commitment to running creative workshops with the Magpie Project community that will capture, share and amplify their myriad stories.  It is the collective’s belief that disseminating these stories empowers and encourages community togetherness and voice at many levels. 

The silhouettes of the collection are inspired by the V&A Museum of Childhood garment archive. This collection sees Bethany’s first detailed exploration into tailoring with a suit inspired by a historical children’s skeleton suit from the 1800’s. The skeleton suit was the first children’s garment designed for play. The new shapes stand alongside our existing forms representing our continued development. The collection also features two corsets created with Welsh designer Rosie Evans using offcuts from the collection production. In these corsets, Rosie has replaced traditional boning with a material made out of fruit packaging waste. 

 At a time when the V&A Museum of Childhood has fully decanted for refurbishment, All Our Stories has filled the empty space with new stories and community faces for our campaign imagery.  

As with all her work, the collection is created via Bethany’s social manufacturing partners who are built into the framework of social enterprise. Bethany continues to work with community driven, UK based social manufacturing partner, Making for Change Poplar Works. For the first time, Williams is using donations of Merino Wool deadstock from Lanificio Ermenegildo Zegna, which has been printed with eco-friendly inks via Orto Print in Peckham.  

Through the collaboration with Mending For Good, knitwear has been a key area of development for this collection where Williams proudly introduces a new social manufacturing partnership called Manusa. Manusa is, a social cooperative that involves people from various backgrounds, specializing in hand-techniques including delicate crochet, embroidery and hand-knitting. Designed in collaboration with Alice Morell Evans, the knitwear uses Sesia Wool industry waste sample swatches, crocheted together with Seisia organic bio wool. Each year,  the sample swatches created each season become surplus at the end of each cycle of production. To utilise this waste, Bethany and Founder of Mending For Good, Barbara Guarducci, developed a sorting technique with Sesia for their team to separate the swatches. 

Barbara Guarducci said “Mending for Good was born to provide design-driven technical solutions for the excess stock and left-overs of the fashion industry. Everyday tons of so far “considered” waste are still produced, that is why we love to collaborate with visionary designers such as Bethany Williams that sees waste as the raw material from which a beautiful story can start.”  

The book cover waste, provided by Hachette, is used for Bethany’s iconic Book Bags, and integrated into the collection garments through their woven textile collaboration with San Patrignano, an education and rehabilitation programme that teaches traditional Italian craft and a sense of community.  

Six looks from All Our Stories make up Bethany Williams’ submission for the 2021 International Woolmark Prize finals.  

20% of the profits from this collection will be donated to The Magpie Project via The Bethany Williams Benevolent Fund, a fund set up by The Magpie Project and Bethany Williams in 2020. 

Read what British Vogue has to say about the latest Bethany Williams Collection here

 

Newham’s response to Covid

The COVID crisis made visible a pre-existing, chronic crisis of inequality and poverty – and the Covid response improved the lives of people suffering before COVID (the homeless, those in unsuitable accommodation, those with NRPF) as well as those who were newly in need. 

  • The spread of COVID 19, government instruction to stay at home and sudden economic crisis exposed and exacerbated deep inequalities in Newham. The borough was already tackling public health crises including related to poor air quality, the housing crisis and poverty. 
    Newham is the most ethnically diverse borough in the UK, with 73% of residents from black and minority ethnic backgrounds. It quickly became clear that the pandemic was disproportionately affecting Black and minority ethnic communities and so was experienced acutely in Newham. There were a number of complex interrelated issues affecting this, borne of long standing health inequalities and structural racism. 
  • ONS data also showed a stark correlation between COVID 19 mortality rates and the prevalence of overcrowded housing. Between 1 March and 17 April 2020, Newham had the highest death rate (114.3 deaths per 100,000) and the biggest overcrowding problem (25.2% of homes are overcrowded). 
    You can see in this photographic essay by Laura Dodsworth the conditions that our mothers had to endure during lockdown. One Room Lockdown. These were mothers who were not under Newham’s direct care and therefore did not benefit from the Mayor’s decision to move all of those in shared accommodation in to self contained homes in order to facilitate the possibility of self-isolating, or social distancing.
    We were so worried about the plight of those unable to keep safe in Migrant Help accommodation that the ITV did a story on it, and the Mayor of Newham wrote to the housing secretary to express concern.

The response of Newham was exemplary in terms of communication, decisiveness and trusting and enabling community groups, faith organisations and third sector to act in the interests of our residents.
Partnership working has been central to supporting residents in Newham, with the council, voluntary, faith and community sector all mobilising together at rapid speed. This included: 

  • The Newham Food Alliance – A network of voluntary, community and faith sector organisations coordinated by the council to distribute food. In 2020, this network and HelpNewham distributed 264,000 food parcels to Newham residents, and council vehicles moved over 920 tonnes of Felix fare-share surplus food, with these figures rising daily.  
  • The Newham Social Welfare Alliance has worked with community organisations to provide training sessions on Housing and Homelessness, Domestic Violence to Children and Young People’s Mental Wellbeing.  Since November, 753 people from 81 organisations have attended sessions. 
    Establishing a COVID-19 Health Champions network of 400+ residents who share information in the community. The network was recognized as best practice by the government and the Ministry of Communities and Local Government now funds similar work at other Councils.  
  • Pioneering a rapid local testing model in the borough, which has fundamentally changed access to testing particularly for the most vulnerable communities. 
  • Working with the local NHS to establish vaccine sites beyond health care settings, including pop up vaccine sites in churches, temples, mosques and community centres.  
  • Offering free accommodation for living in overcrowded housing, the first local authority in the country to do so. This followed research by the council on why some residents feel unable to self-isolate, which found that 71% of those surveyed listed fear of losing their job as a factor that gets in the way of being able to self-isolate. A further 60% said they were preventing from self-isolating by the need to earn money.  
  • Newham rapidly mobilised an emergency accommodation and assessment centre and accommodation for all rough sleepers, regardless of their immigration status or local connection (Four Hotels and 40 Houses of Multiple Occupancy.) Newham has had the largest decrease in rough sleepers this year nationally, with rough sleepers falling by 91%. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, Newham had accommodated 124 Rough Sleepers, with approximately 70 people still on the streets. Newham currently has 212 people accommodated and 6 people on the streets. Throughout the pandemic 198 people have been supported to move on out of this temporary accommodation and into longer-term settled accommodation. 

3. The response to COVID proved that – with political will and central funding – crises can be addressed. It proved that other long-standing chronic crises – child poverty, homelessness, food poverty, digital poverty, hygiene poverty, loneliness, NRPF –  could benefit from being treated as a public health crisis of the same urgency. 

  • The pandemic has dissolved many of the barriers between the council, health partners, voluntary, faith and community organisations. This unprecedented mobilisation to support residents demonstrates what is possible when local authorities and community organisations are giving the appropriate funding and powers. In March 2020 the Chancellor promised to do ‘whatever it takes’ to fund councils through the pandemic, but as of March, the impact of the pandemic on Newham council was £82m, and support from government only estimated at £68m. Council across the country have been left short. 
  • The pandemic has also shown the power of local authorities of convenors of local communities during crises. Councils like Newham are uniquely placed to play this role. During COVID 19, we have seen the value of a more balanced central-local relationship in tackling this challenge. The vaccine programme shows each level playing to its strengths: with central government using its purchasing power and other levers to accelerate vaccine development and acquisition, and the local NHS, council and community partners working to get it into people’s arms. The Test and Trace Programme has in contrast been highly centralised. 
  • Newham has launched its 50 Steps to a Healthier Newham Health and Well-Being Strategy 2020-23, that sets out how Newham will respond to the significant pre-existing and new health challenges created by the pandemic. The strategy details how the borough will work with partners to do all possible to maximize the health of the population over the next three years, placing a key focus on supporting people around the determinants of their health. 
  • This is underpinned by the Council’s ‘Towards a Better Newham’ COVID-19 Recovery Strategy, all informed by the council’s overarching strategic goal to tackle inequality, racism and disproportionality. The strategy is based on eight pillars, including a commitment to measuring the council’s success in future on the health, happiness and wellbeing of residents. 
  • Newham is showing what is possible with imaginative policies, partnership working and political will. Going forward, we need a national approach that focuses on prevention and tackling structural inequality at its roots. 

NCT partnership way to support Newham’s new mums

A new community partnership will expand the support available for pregnant women and new mums experiencing financial hardship and disadvantage in Newham.

NCT, in partnership with Alternatives Trust East London¹, The Magpie Project and Compost London, has been awarded a £471,000 grant from the Government’s Health and Wellbeing fund.²

The new funding builds on NCT’s well-established Parents in Mind³ project in the borough, funded by Newham Clinical Commissioning Group, which provides trained peer support for women who are socially isolated or experiencing mental health difficulties.

The new partnership will expand support across the borough and offer antenatal education, breastfeeding support, counselling and family link services alongside the existing perinatal peer support service. The project has a strong focus on inclusion and support for pregnant women and new mums of Black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds, who experience significant inequalities in outcomes.

Bulon, a Bengali mum and peer supporter for Newham Parents in Mind, said: “There are many people in our community who have no-one to turn to due to language barriers, social issues or poor mental health who just need a friend to hear and understand them.”

Angela McConville, Chief Executive, NCT, said: “I’m delighted our partnership has been able to secure funding for this strong community approach. Together, we can ensure meaningful and impactful support for many more women experiencing significant challenges during pregnancy and early parenthood.

“At NCT we believe in the importance of antenatal and postnatal support for mental health and wellbeing. Our volunteer peer supporters already play an important role in reducing isolation, boosting mental health and supporting women to access services in Newham. This new partnership and community-led approach will further expand this support, and will help address the unacceptable inequalities experienced by Black, Asian and ethnic minority women.”

Jason Strelitz, Director of Public Health, London Borough of Newham, said: “Since inception, NCT has worked collaboratively with Newham’s maternity and Children’s Health Service, supporting partner agencies to connect with and support families. We deeply value the role that our voluntary and community sector partners play in meeting the needs of our community. We see NCT and their consortium of partners as a significant player in helping us realise our ambition to make Newham the best place for children and families.”

Elizabeth Booker, Director, Alternatives Trust East London, said: “Alternatives’ holistic and therapeutic work with vulnerable women around pregnancy and birth has shown us the extent of the unmet need for perinatal education and support in Newham. We are delighted to be collaborating with these excellent partners on this new project. It has the potential to make a huge impact on the wellbeing of women in our borough who do not currently have access to services and give their children a healthy and secure start in life.”

Jane Williams, CEO Founder, The Magpie Project, said: ‘We are over the moon to have the opportunity to work with NCT and local partners Alternatives and Compost London to bring vital perinatal services to mums from migrant or marginalised backgrounds. We are excited by the prospect of a bespoke, targeted and meaningful response to the specific barriers and challenges they face gaining support around childbirth and early motherhood.”

¹ Alternatives Trust East London is a charity that supports the wellbeing of women in east London, particularly around pregnancy and birth. It supports vulnerable new mothers: 98% are recent migrants, and 95% are from Black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds. Over 80% of families that access Alternatives’ services are homeless. In 2019, Alternatives supported 121 women with 209 children through a combination of practical and therapeutic services.

The Magpie Project is a user-led charity helping women who are homeless or at risk of homelessness with children under five in east London. They support around 250 families a year, offering sessions for children including music, dance, and art. They provide practical support such as food banks, nappies, equipment, and professional support.

Compost London is a team which has been working in capacity building in East London’s voluntary community sector for many years. It will lead on evaluating the programme.

² The Health and Wellbeing Programme is a joint initiative by the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC), Public Health England (PHE) and NHS England and NHS Improvement. It aims to enable them to work together with the Voluntary Community and Social Enterprise (VCSE) sector to promote equality, improve health inequalities and to help families and communities to achieve and maintain wellbeing.

³ Parents in Mind is a peer-support project run by NCT and funded by Newham Clinical Commissioning Group. Mums taking part showed a statistically significant reduction in anxiety and depression scores and reported feeling less isolated.

• 86% felt the programme helped them feel less isolated and alone
• 86% felt it helped them to know where to get help if they needed it
• 86% felt it provided someone they could talk to who understood them
• 74% felt it helped them to feel more hopeful about the future

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.