2nd All-Party Parliamentary Group on Households in Temporary Accommodation.
Minutes of meeting: Tuesday 12 th July, 14.00-15.00, hybrid meeting
Room C, 1 Parliament Street
Joint Secretariats: Shared Health Foundation (SHF) and Justlife.
Attendees in Person: Siobhain McDonagh MP, Rebecca Long-Bailey MP, Karen Buck MP, Yaasmin Mughees (guest speaker), Sam Pratt (SHF), Alex Procter (Justlife), Kwajo Tweneboa, Jo Spurling (SHF), Jenny Pennington (Shelter), Emma Mulhound (Justlife),
Ischia Wise-Martin (SHF)
- Kendra Schneller – Queen’s Nursing Institute
- Robin Johnson – The PIElink
- Ella Prudhoe
- Kesia Reeve – Sheffield Hallam
- Julie Desborough – Brighton YMCA
- Emily Hedley – GM Deprivation
- Felicity Mallam – Wates Family Enterprise Trust
- Sarah Owen MP Hannah Rich – Shelter
- Jennifer Tarabay – Southampton
- Katherine Brickell – RHUL
- Nicola Spurr – Journalist
- Rebecca Brennan
- Gina Skipwith – DHSC
- Paul Hackett
- Molly Bishop – GMCA
- Mary Carter, London Housing
- Beth Kilheeney – GMCA
- Jo Richardson
- Tracey Jones – Homeless HV Team
- Steven McIntyre – Stonewall Housing
- Emma Roe – SHF
- Fatima Debras – SHF
- Maria Byrne – Southampton City Council
- Caitilin Hayes – GMCA
- Paul Wishart – Oak Foundation
- Alice Reynolds – RHUL
- Deborah Garvey – Shelter
- Hattie Sander – UCL
- Sam Monger – grosvener
- Monica Lakhanpaul – Lead Champion Trust
- Amy Nelson – Notting Hill Genesis
- Karen Simmonds – DHSC
- Tammy – Office of Apsana Begum
- Jenny Symmons- Sarah Owen’s
- Matthew Frosdyck – SHF
- Micheal Creedy
- Nick Clare – Social Science Mental Health
- Gareth Webber – Shelter
- Clare Caudery – Birmingham Fair
- Katy Parker – The Connection
- Liam Geraghty – The Big Issue
- Rik Child – Brighton & Hove Faith in Action
- Alex Firth – HRW
- Leila Barker – London Housing
- Mariana Schiller – Greater London Authority
- Joanne Bernhaut – East Sussex Council
- Jane Woodhull – Switchboard
- Miranda Keast – Museum of Homelessness
Chair: Siobhain McDonagh MP for Mitcham and Morden
Siobhain McDonagh (SM) opened the meeting by welcoming all the attendees, in person and online. SM then proceeded to make the following introductions:
- Congratulated the joint secretariats Justlife and Shared Health Foundation (SHF) for successfully collecting all the data from the Call for Evidence which was launched back in May
- Explained the sad nature of responses from Call for Evidence but was grateful that the gravity of the responses will create the attention it needs
SM handed meeting over to lead secretariats:
Sam Pratt (SP) thanked all for attending the meeting and went on to provide a brief introduction on the Call for Evidence and why it was launched:
- The aim for the Call for Evidence was to create a snapshot of the status of TA across England
- TA in England often gets overlooked by both media and policy makers, but there are over 90,000 households in TA, with 120,000 being children.
- Most TAs are unfit for human habitation, providing a lack of facilities such as beds, bedding, cookers, and other basic provisions
- There are more factors impacting the standards of TA than just the bricks and mortar such as: lack of support for households moved out-of-area, barriers to GP registration, safer sleeping for infants mentioned nowhere in any legislation, and children in TA not viewed equally as ‘Looked after children’ and therefore receive no support for their vulnerability
SP followed by briefing a short summary on Call for Evidence:
- Call for Evidence was launched back in May, where it was sent out to friends, partners in health, housing, and other homelessness organisations with the aim of sending through any case studies from those who are living in or have lived in TA
- In just 6 weeks the survey for the Call for Evidence received over 71 responses, covering 89 stories of single adults and families from all over the country
Call for Evidence video – duration: 5 minutes
The video showed displayed many personal and professional testimonies (from health or support workers who were involved with the household) on experiences from living in TA across England. Many of the accounts shared covered living with overcrowding, infestations, issues with out-of-borough placements, unsafe environments, disability discrimination, discrimination, and lack of support.
Brief data on submissions
SP revealed data on those who had responded to the survey:
- Out of all the respondents from the Call for Evidence, 40% currently or recently lived in TA
- 32% were professionals working with them
- 29 respondents were from single adults, with 38 from a family unit
- Shockingly 26% who submitted reported feeling unsafe in their accommodation
SP followed on from the Call for Evidence to introduce ‘The Champion’s Project Research’ on children living in TA during COVID, reading a quote from the Lead Champion of the project Professor Monica Lakhanpaul:
“The prolonged lockdown, social isolation, poor environment, and lack of support during COVID has exacerbated existing and new health and developmental issues for children under 5. The root causes of these issues are linked to the environment that the children are living in. This includes hygiene issues, overcrowding and poor housing conditions.”
SP concluded his speech by addressing that there are good examples of TA with a few housing officers in Manchester actively partnering with health providers to ensure support is provided to homeless households. However, SP stated that with many cases are presenting unsustainable TA. It is in our mission to find solutions that ensure stays in TA are safe, brief, and non-recurring.
SP moved on to introduce co-secretariat Alex Procter to the panel.
Alex Procter (AP) thanked all for attending, including an additional thanks to all charities and other body organisations for their part in helping raise awareness of the Call for Evidence.
AP went on to make the following statements:
- We acknowledge that not all examples of TA provided in the Call for Evidence were negative and that there are a few TAs in reasonable to good conditions
- Examples of these are emerging slowly in Manchester, with properties in quality conditions being used for TA
- Other improvements show housing systems across England collaborating with health providers, and or social prescribers to integrate a well bodied and holistic support for the households
- We understand that one of the best solutions to ending homelessness and shortening household stays in TA is to create more social housing and affordable homes. However, this cannot be built overnight
- We must look to other short-term solutions that can improve the outcomes of those residing in TA. Of course, it is not possible to change the present standards of TA but what solutions can we collaboratively find?
AP moved on to highlight the key themes that were found in the Call for Evidence
- Poor maintenance, leaks, damp, and mould
- Poor infrastructure, collapsing stairs
- Lack of fixtures, no hot water
- No or minimal disability access, leaving many unable to physically move around the space they lived in
- Unsecure environments – people living in fear due to violent neighbours and no lockable doors
- No supported accommodation leaving people feeling lost and overwhelmed
AP argued the urgency in finding solutions to change the policies surrounding TAs, highlighting that homelessness is a complex issue which needs to be at the forefront of our minds when creating actions.
AP concluded her speech by announcing the Call for evidence report which will be realised in full on the APPG on households in TA website.
Guest speaker: Shadow minister for Housing Rough Sleeping, Sara Owen MP
Sara Owens (SO) began by addressing the importance of language and how it is used to represent TA and homelessness.
SO made the following statements:
- There is a massive misunderstanding of what homelessness is, with many people believing homelessness refers solely to rough sleeping. People are often referred to as ‘unhoused’ rather than homeless
- A majority of people who are homeless are actually housed but having that roof over their head does not necessarily mean that they are living in good conditions
- Additionally, there is a misconception on the gendered nature of homelessness. Many perceive men are usually the most likely to end up homeless, but there are twice as many women than men living in TA
SO moved on to discuss the TA crisis in Luton North where she represents.
- Luton North has the highest TA figures in the UK and the reason behind this is two-fold
- Most households living in London or in boroughs nearby are being housed in Luton
- Many councils surrounding this area and other networks in the nearby boroughs are not in communication with each other. Having an open network between boroughs would be part of the TA solution, creating a prevention with notifications alerting authorities of uninhabitable, small living spaces that would be unsuitable for the household
SO continued by adding other issues needed tackling:
- There needs to be a focus on tackling the root causes of homelessness, with the assistance of health and other organisations
- Section 21, no fault evictions need to be banned
- Painting a true picture of homelessness will be a step forward in creating awareness for those living in TA. If there is no true scale of how the homeless system works, how will policy makers best tackle the situation?
- Building truly affordable housing would be a great solution, but fighting against the poor standards of the PRS should be the main focus
- Must not forget that TA is a glaring part of the homelessness issue
Q&A with Sarah Owen
Karen Buck (KB) made the following statements:
- One of the main themes we see with TA is the rise of out-of-borough placements which reinforces underlining problems.
- We know that we need a prevention strategy and more social housing, however, it is possible for the government to make these steps possible and even manage the problems seen in TA
- Many children with special needs have been moved out of the borough in which they grew up in , and there are parents commuting 1-2 hrs to and from school, using up their benefit cap and paying more than £60 per week
Q: Can we make a six-point plan on actions that could be taken to address these issues?
Kwajo Tweneboa (KT) addressed the audience with the following statements:
- No matter how long the stay in TA there is never any stability
- Main concern is the welfare of children, who are often a cohort of overlooked victims. As seen time and time again, children are moved from TA to TA and this affects their prospects in education.
- For schools, children living in poor housing conditions is not considered a safeguarding issue resulting in children being left without any support
- Quality of housing you live in strongly affects your education, yet poor housing conditions aren’t considered a safeguarding issue when it comes to children
Q: Will there be someone who will address safeguarding rights for homeless children?
Rebecca Long-Bailey (RLB) stated the following:
- Hosted a session for my constituents in Salford as an opportunity to share their experiences living in TA
- Many of those who attended were hesitant to share their stories to a public body – perhaps they told their stories many times but heard no responses
RLB touched on a possible short-term solution to the TA crisis:
- With plans of devolution of powers from central government to LAs, we could set up a Local Charter on the state of TA, giving those sharing their experiences hope that they are being listened to
SM answered RLB’s suggestion with the statement below:
- I do not believe that a guidance on TA will ever be enforced by LAs. The reality is that most statutory guidelines are not adhered to.
- A solution to this problem would be to incorporate an ‘Ofsted’ like inspector to inspect LAs and see if they are delivering what is expected. The inspector would be used for households placed in TA and could enforce discipline within the department for housing
Guest speaker Yaasmin Mughees, (YM), lived experience
SM introduced panellist YM to share her lived experience in TA
YM shared the following:
- In 2010 moved from Manchester to Oldham into NARS accommodation as there were no other TA options. The location of the placement was far away from extended family
- Moving from NARS to TA was a horrible experience. There was no communication of where next TA would be. I was forced to call housing associations to find out about the next planned steps that I was not informed on
- In 2014 moved into TA for 6 months before securing a permanent home. The state of the TA was very good, with great facilities
- Commuting to schools however was difficult as there were no bus routes and became quite expensive
- My children’s education and numeracy skills improved greatly in TA, so I was shocked to hear during the Homeless families: share your story gathering (hosted by SHF), that other mothers living in TA had contrasting experiences
- Going through these experiences stays with you so it saddens me to see people going through such terrible experiences
Guest speaker Molly Bishop, (MB) strategic leader of GMCA, Professional experience
SM introduced next panellist with professional experience Molly Bishop (MB)
MB thanked SM for the introduction and explained her role as the Strategic Lead for GMCA working across 10 LA areas of Manchester.
MB explained possible reasons for the current TA conditions as referred from the Call for Evidence video:
- Areas where there are poor standard TAs are mostly due to lack of funding or funding that is dysfunctional. If there isn’t a funding model in place for TA then this (referring to testimonies in Call for Evidence video) is the end product that will be seen
- Biggest drivers for LAs is preventing families being placed into B&Bs. In GM we have spent time working with collaborative partnerships, aimed at excluding families from entering B&Bs. Where this is unavoidable, minimum standards have and are being included
- Issues with acquiring policy funding for TA and supported accommodation occurs where it is not commissioned, so it becomes harder to enforce
- LAs can use housing benefits as subsidy for income
- The Homelessness prevention grant is the only way that housing can clone their Local Housing Allowances (LHAs). A consultation on the prevention grant would be ideal, but requires further investigation
SM opened the Q&A for the in-person attendees
George O’Neil (GN) Chief Executive at Cardinal Hume Centre
GN stated the following:
- Problems surrounding TA would not be solved if the quality was improved. The whole experience of TA can be hurtful
- Evidence of problems with adults becoming homeless stems from early childhood
Q: Wouldn’t it be best to enforce stronger obligations on LAs on how they offer support to mitigate TA on children?
Lead Champion for Childhood Trust project, Professor Monica Lakhanpaul, ML
ML stated the following:
- There are actions that can be made in the short-term to alleviate immediate risks to children in TA
- Firstly, must consider the environmental effects and the impacts it has on children
- Reduce the frequent moves of families living in TA
- Applying advocates for children who can provide a supportive service for when children arrive at a new school to reduce the stress and trauma
Policy Officer at Shelter, Deborah Garvey, DG
DG stated the following:
- The housing benefit overall is not good practice. The cap massively affects those fleeing from domestic violence, and has remained the same since 2016 despite the rise in rent
- Homelessness is not a complex issue, shelter knows this. The problem arises from being unable to afford suitable homes
Q: Where do you direct the funding? Do you direct people to take funding out of the system, or do you increase the housing benefit to make rent affordable?
SM invited the virtual audience to the Q&A
Senior Coordinator at Human Rights Watch, Alex Firth, AF
AF -SO: we know what we need to do for prevention, but more social housing will take time. If Labour were in power, what steps would you take in the interim to deal with the issues of poor conditions that exist in TA?
Faculty of Social Science Mental Health Lead, Dr Nick Clare, NC
Q: The important role of gender has been flagged here but did the research find out much around the roles that race and ethnicity play?
Consultant in Public Health, Joanne Bernhaut
Q: Does the department for levelling up housing and communities collect data on people in temporary accommodation or just those who sleep rough?
The question above were left unanswered
SM concluded the discussion by acknowledging the need for an action plan. SM delegated the joint secretariats with the task of creating a five-six point strategy plan that could resolve the short term complexities for those living in TA
SM thanked everyone for their attendance and finished the meeting at 3pm