‘Inside Housing’ report
“Westminster Council has been criticised for moving homeless children with disabilities and special educational needs to areas on the outskirts of the capital.
Opponents say the council has risked the mental well-being of several vulnerable children, who have been left commuting long distances to school after being placed in temporary accommodation outside their home borough.
Correspondence between Karen Buck, MP for Westminster North, and the council suggests there have been at least 10 cases where vulnerable children have been moved into temporary housing out of the borough.
A school making representations on behalf of one child with clinical depression said: ‘We feel that… if [name withheld] has to move, this will only lead to the deterioration in her mental state and impact her capacity to study.’
Una Summerson, head of policy at Contact a Family – a charity for families of disabled children – said there were particular concerns for children with special educational needs moving outside their local area.
‘There might be issues around getting to school, transport might have to be arranged,’ she said.
Ms Buck said one family living in temporary accommodation in Hayes, west London, with a profoundly deaf child could not transfer schools because ‘they have no way of knowing where they will be placed next’.
She said many of her constituents were travelling by bus because they could not afford the train. A typical journey by bus from Hayes to Westminster takes more than 90 minutes.
Government guidelines state councils should minimise the disruption of children’s education when housing homeless families and assess the impact of any move on the household’s caring responsibilities.
It comes after Westminster was criticised for housing 70 families in temporary ‘annexes’, which the Labour Group describes as ‘just bedrooms with a bathroom and a gas ring’.
A spokesperson for Westminster Council said: ‘Some children will be eligible for financial support for transport to school, with priority given to those that are in need of temporary accommodation.’”