Newham has the unfortunate honour of leading other boroughs in the number of people in temporary accommodation, child poverty rates and homeless referrals. We wanted to do something to make sure that a spell in temporary accommodation does not cause permanent damage to children who experience it.

Rising child homelessness

As of March 2020 there were 129,380 children living in temporary accommodation in England. Overall the number of households in temporary accommodation soared 9.4% last year to 93,000.

While we focus on giving our mums and minis what they need to get through the day — today — we also know that their situation cannot improve without adequate housing. So we also help our mothers work towards a time when the scourge of homelessness and insecure housing will be right at the top of the political agenda. We work with FEANTSA, Shelter and Homeless Link to tell our mums’ stories and advocate for their housing rights.

Newham suffers more than elsewhere

A Shelter report in December 2019 showed that 1 in 12 Newham children are homeless, and figures from 2020 Trust For London show that 50% of children live below the poverty line.

This does not include the large number of people housed by other boroughs into Newham. It is estimated that 4,994 children live in temporary accommodation across Newham.

Our CEO, Jane Williams, is a Newham changemaker for temporary accommodation, working to ensure that we reduce the number of children suffering in temporary accommodation in the borough.

Under-fives are particularly vulnerable

It is difficult to assess the number of under-fives in temporary accommodation in Newham because many of these childrens’ parents have not engaged with council services. Reasons for this include: hoping that their placement will be temporary; being unable to find appropriate services; or because families are fearful of engaging with the authorities on the grounds that their parenting may be questioned. The transitory life of these families means that the picture is constantly shifting. It is difficult to get figures on the families housed into Newham from other boroughs. This makes them even more vulnerable – and in danger of slipping through the net.

Alongside practical support and play, we work alongside childrens’ centres, health visitors, safeguarding midwives and mental health services to ensure that our children are plugged in to the local authority and health services to which they are entitled.

The hostile environment keeps children destitute

80% of our mums are caught up in the hostile environment.

Some 40% are seeking to regularise their immigration status. Insecure immigration status can occur when women are brought here as domestic slaves and leave slavery; when women come here on a spousal visa and then flee an abusive husband and lose their immigration status in the process; when women come here as children and their parents do not regularise their immigration status, or when their lives change when they are here as students – meaning they are unable to return home. These women and their children are not entitled to housing or benefits even if they have the right to live here. This condition is called No Recourse to Public Funds. Their only option is to approach social services as destitute and be supported under Section 17 of the Children’s Act. We work with the wonderful London Black Women’s Project, and Project 17 to fight for the rights of these women.

An additional 40% of our mums are seeking asylum from political, state or family violence in their home country, or are seeking asylum after having been trafficked to the UK. These women and their children are placed by the Home Office in accommodation in Newham while they await the legal process (up to 2 years). During this time they are not allowed to work or open a bank account, and they live under the enforced destitution of £37.50 per person per week. We work with Praxis, Ramfel, and Duncan Lewis solicitors to fight for the rights of these women.

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