POLITICS

Toxic Housing Crisis Fuels A 700% Rise In Families Forced To Live In B&Bs - Here's One Mother's Story

'Ministers should hang their heads in shame.'

10/05/2017 07:01 | Updated 12 May 2017
HuffPost UK
HuffPost UK
Dian Walker is living in temporary accommodation with her 11-year-old son and 8-month-old baby.

Looking after an 8-month-old baby is a challenge for anyone, but Dian Walker is finding it tougher than most.

The mother-of-two was made homeless six weeks ago after falling behind with her rent, and now lives in a single room in a bed-and-breakfast with her baby and 11-year-old son.

The family has to share a bathroom with others in the B&B, including another family, which has two teenage children.

It is a far from ideal way to raise a family, especially as Dian’s son – who does not want to be named – now has to travel from Ilford in east London to Edmonton in the north of the capital for school.

The Sainsbury’s employee – who works part-time in customer service for the supermarket chain - is worried what the impact of the family’s cramped living conditions are having on her children, particularly her eldest.

“He doesn’t really like it,” the 33-year-old told HuffPost UK.

“It’s very uncomfortable. Sometimes he doesn’t want to go back there. I keep telling him that things will get better soon. Sometimes he thinks this has happened because it’s his fault.”

Dian fell behind on her rent when she was on maternity leave after splitting from her new-born baby’s father.

She owed her landlord more than £5,000 and was kicked out on to the streets.

Her attempts to find a new home in the private sector have been fruitless, as landlord after landlord refused to accept her housing benefit as payment.

“I can’t afford to go back private. If I could, I wouldn’t be in this situation,” she said.

“It’s not just the rent, it’s finding a month’s rent up-front, and a deposit and then letting fees.”

HuffPost UK
Dian has been living in the room for almost six weeks - and no end is in sight

Dian was placed in temporary accommodation by Waltham Forest Council, but instead of keeping her in the part of Greater London where her son goes to school, she was placed into a B&B in Ilford.

Her son now faces a commute to school along the busy North Circular road, a journey Dian does not believe an 11-year-old should be making alone - meaning she has to accompany him every day.

This has placed question marks over whether she can return to work next month – something which will further exasperate her financial woes.

Dian said: “It’s so stressful. I do work, I try to do everything properly, but I have to provide so much information – bank statements going back two years – to prove to the council I deserve a proper place to live.”

She added: “It’s not easy because I have been depressed, I have been to counselling, but I have to stay strong.”

HuffPost UK
Dian is trying to stay strong for her young family

Unfortunately, Dian’s story is not unique – indeed, she is one of growing number of people facing homelessness in the UK in 2017.

Government statistics reveal that since the Tories came to power in 2010, homelessness and the number of people living in temporary accommodation has risen dramatically.

The number of families with children staying longer than six weeks in B&Bs since 2006 (source gov.uk)

In June 2010, the number of families with children living in B&Bs for more than six weeks was 160.

At the end of 2016, it was 1,260 – an increase of 688%.

The rise in the number of families with children housed in B&Bs in England (source gov.uk)

When the figures include those who stay fewer than six weeks the increase is just as dramatic – a rise from 740 families with children in June 2010 to 2,780 in December 2016.

Total number of children in temporary accommodation since 2006 (source gov.uk)

The total number of children in all kinds of temporary accommodation – B&Bs, hostels, women’s refuges, council homes and private rooms – has increased from 72,590 to 118,960 over the same period.

Labour’s Shadow Housing Secretary John Healey is damning his assessment of the Tories’ record on the issue.

He said: “Ministers should hang their heads in shame that in a country as decent and well off as ours homelessness is rising. Under Conservative ministers the number of families without a permanent home has ballooned, and now includes almost 120,000 children.

“The hard truth for Tory Ministers is that their decisions have caused this crisis: record low levels of new affordable rented housing, lack of action to help private renters and deep cuts to housing benefit and charity funding.

“It is now clear that after seven years of failure the Conservatives have no plan to fix the housing crisis.

“Labour in Government would end rough sleeping, give renters new rights, and build thousands more affordable homes to rent and buy.” 

Housing charity Shelter, who is helping Dian get back onto her feet, called on whoever wins the election to get to grips with the housing crisis.

Anne Baxendale, director of communications, policy and campaigns at Shelter, said: “We have long been in the midst of a housing crisis in this country, with millions of ordinary people left to suffer the consequences of our failure to build enough affordable homes combined with cuts to welfare.

“But we don’t have to accept the status quo and nor does the next government. Whoever wins in June will have the opportunity to fix the failures of the past by concentrating on building decent homes that people on lower incomes can realistically afford to live in. We look forward to working with them to achieve this.”

As part of our mission to get to the guts of Brexit, HuffPost UK is looking at voters’ priorities beyond the hubbub of the election campaign trail and what they want beyond March 29, 2019, not just June 8, 2017. Beyond Brexit goes outside the bubble of Westminster and London talk to Britons left out of the conversation on the subjects they really care about, like housing, integration, social care, school funding and air quality.

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