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New report commissioned by Newham Citizens reveals devastating impact of inadequate housing on children

New report commissioned by Newham Citizens reveals devastating impact of inadequate housing on children

Newham Citizens, a part of TELCO (The East London Citizens Organisation), the Founding Chapter of Citizens UK, have commissioned a report that reveals insight into the devastating impact of inadequate housing on early child development and educational experience.

Young students at a Lewisham Citizens housing action holding placards
Salomé Revault d'Allonnes

Children and families living in Newham are at the epicentre of the UK’s housing emergency and bearing the brunt of decades of failed housing policies.

The report found that families in Newham are living in dire housing conditions, are subject to frequent moves, considerable uncertainty, and long periods of time in inadequate temporary accommodation. Sadly, many children are growing up in housing that is not fit for purpose, negatively impacting various aspects of their lives including their ability to play, learn, study, socialise with friends and thrive in their home environments.

Overcrowding emerged as a key issue, where research found that it is not unusual for a parent and child or an entire family of four to share a bedroom.

"I share a bedroom with five people (including three siblings) …and it is the smallest room in the house. I sleep on a mattress that is on the floor. My older brother sleeps on the top of the only bunk bed in the room, while my two sisters share the lower bunk bed."

– A young student interviewed as part of the research

The London Borough of Newham is investing in a range of services to support families, but the increasing cost of housing families in inadequate and very expensive temporary accommodation is impacting their overall budgets.

While the Report explored the impact of inadequate housing on early childhood development and educational experience in Newham, its findings are applicable to children and young people across the country. There are currently 139,000 growing up in “temporary accommodation”, denied the chance to form roots in communities, yet there remains a lack of urgency to address this issue by Government.

"There is mould everywhere and it is so damp and very dusty. In the bathroom, there is a gigantic hole in the wall and in the shower. The kitchen is not very good, we have cabinet and drawer planks broken off underneath. We also had a cockroach infestation when we first came back here in 2020."

– A respondent interviewed as part of the research

Salomé Revault d'Allonnes
Young students at an action for housing in London

This research report illustrates first-hand the devastating impact that inadequate housing has on children and young people and highlights the need for urgent action. We have a reasonable expectation that children will be able to learn to crawl and walk, play, study, sleep, relax and socialise at home. But for many children and young people in Newham we found that this simply was not possible. Dr Penny Bernstock, lead researcher

The report highlights a serious moral issue for the country. Children and young people deserve a better start in life. As part of our housing and homelessness campaign in this election year, we are calling on all political parties to commit to a long-term plan to end child homelessness. A key part of this is making sure temporary accommodation really is temporary, is livable, and that all the country’s children have a decent home to grow up in. Emmanuel Gotora, Assistant Director, Citizens UK

The problems we see are around temporary and emergency accommodation and very poor-quality accommodation in the private rented sector. When people say temporary that is a bit of a misnomer, what temporary means is unregulated accommodation, so they can't put down roots, they don’t know whether to change their children’s school from the borough which they came from or their GP (general practitioners) because they literally don’t know whether they are going to move tomorrow or in three years- time. We have families of up to 4 or 5 people in one room the size of a single bedroom. There are high levels of asthma, nowhere to play, children are learning to walk on the bed because there is no clear floor space, they are missing the crawling phase of development because they are not having enough tummy time on the floor. Jane Williams, CEO, Magpie Project

Our research shows that inadequate housing is a growing barrier to good school attendance and engagement across the country. We welcome the work Newham Citizens and Citizens UK is doing to shine a light on this problem and the serious impact it is having on families. This is a national problem and we urgently need a national strategy to tackle the housing crisis and ensure that inadequate housing does not stand in the way of children and young people accessing the education they deserve. Jaine Stannard, CEO, School-Home Support

Our work on housing
Salomé Revault d'Allonnes

We all deserve to live in dignity, yet millions of people across the UK do not have access to safe, secure or affordable housing. But it doesn't have to be this way. We're bringing everyday people together with powerholders to tackle poor housing and increase affordable housing in communities up and down the UK.

Posted by Aanisah Khan on 20 Jun, 2024