BASW England fully supports the calls for urgent government action to end the scandal of family homelessness.
Response to the Children’s Commissioner report on the impact of eviction and homelessness on vulnerable children.
The Children’s Commissioner’s Office publishes a new report revealing the experiences of the thousands of children who had to live in Bed and Breakfast temporary accommodation during the covid-19 lockdown earlier this year. The report highlights the damaging effects eviction and homelessness can have for vulnerable children.
Social workers have a critical place in working alongside family members and with housing and public health colleagues and the voluntary sector to avoid some of the worst consequences of homelessness.
We are aware that housing squalor, overcrowding, housing insecurity and homelessness are among the causes of the unprecedented rise in the numbers of children referred to social workers because of safeguarding concerns, and the large rise in numbers of young children and teenagers needing to come into care.
The right to adequate and secure housing is a core one, recognised by a number of national and international bodies, including the United Nations. This right should include the right to decent quality housing as well as to security of tenure.
The underlying issue of an inadequate supply of appropriate social housing is long-standing, and has not been properly addressed by successive UK governments: it should be a political priority for the current one.
In the immediate, national and local government need to use what powers they have to help ensure that families with children are not housed in temporary Bed & Breakfast accommodation longer than absolutely necessary, and to help ensure that, in the context of the Covid pandemic, we do not see more families made homeless: this will require an extension to the ban on evictions beyond the one month the Government has recently announced.
The Government have highlighted the importance of education in the current period. It is important to recognise the harmful implications for children and young people's education, stability and development of poor housing and multiple moves of tenancy caused through homelessness or insecure housing.
These moves detract from school attendance and continuity of education and can severely detract from children and young people's educational development.
Moving forward beyond the very immediate, the Government needs to prioritise promised legislation which will end 'no-fault' evictions in England and Wales under section 21 of the Housing Act 1988. This has been the case in Scotland since 2017 and was promised in 2019 for England and Wales, but is yet to be enacted.
We call on the Government to honour its predecessor's pledge.
Finally we call on the Government to draw up an action plan in consultation with key stakeholders that will address current shortfalls in social housing in order to help ensure that families' and children's welfare is not compromised through the absence of decent quality housing for all who need it.
BASW England is in the process of issuing practice guidance to social workers and social service managers on how best to help families brought close to breaking point when problems caused or accentuated by housing pressures place the health and welfare of parents and children at risk.
Thank you to BASW England children and families group who developed this response.