PLEASE NOTE: this story is from 2013 and the Temporary Accommodation Support Service has now closed.
If you are affected by the issues in this story, please click here to see a list of links and phone numbers that might be able to help.
This week saw the launch of our Temporary Accommodation Support Service.
We’re going to be working with Birmingham City Council to support families currently living in B&Bs, providing support during and after they move into more stable accommodation.
According to government figures released in September (PDF), 2,090 families with children in England were living in a B&B at the end of June – the highest figure in ten years.
A Shelter report, published this week, says:
A Shelter investigation today reveals ‘shocking’ conditions experienced by homeless families, as government figures show that 80,000 children in Britain will be homeless this Christmas.
For many this means emergency housing in B&Bs, where children face particularly difficult conditions.
A move to temporary accommodation is a big disruption for anyone, but for families it’s a massive upheaval.
Uprooting children from a family home to a B&B is unsettling and the new environment can be frightening for them. Many families are forced to live in one room, and to share a bathroom with other residents. Cooking facilities are very limited – if a kitchen is available, it’s also shared. A move to temporary accommodation can mean a move some distance away from children’s schools and the support networks that families have built up over time.
The reasons that lead to a family moving to a B&B usually mean a very sudden upheaval. In Birmingham, 25% of families in B&Bs are there because of domestic abuse. For others, the range of reasons include financial hardship, relationship breakdown, or difficulties in managing their tenancy.
Birmingham City Council has recently been given funding from the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) to asssit them in tackling the issue of families in temporary accommodation. This funding has allowed BCC to employ Housing Needs Officers, who are dedicated to finding sustainable accommodation for the 80 or so families currently in temporary accommodation in the city – and any more, as needs arise. That could mean council housing, Housing Association accommodation, or whatever else it takes to get them out of temporary accommodation within six weeks – the time limit as set by The Homelessness (Suitability of Accommodation) (England) Order 2003.
The objective is to reduce families’ length of stay, recognising the detriment this upheaval has on family life.
Gateway was approached by Birmingham City Council to run a small pilot because of our solid track record of working with vulnerable families. Our involvement will allow the Housing Needs Officers to concentrate on finding accommodation for a family, while we support them with all the other issues that they may have.
The new Temporary Accommodation Support team is made up of experienced outreach workers, all used to supporting families at times of vulnerability. They’ll be working closely with the Council’s Homeless Team, including the newly appointed Housing Needs Officers.
Each Relocation Worker will have their own caseload and will meet clients regularly to tackle issues together, supporting families for up to twelve months. In the same way that POWs support pregnant women and their families, the Relocation Workers will identify risks and issues, then work with the families to reduce, and hopefully eliminate, those issues over that time. Depending on the family, support might include domestic abuse referrals, help with applications for grants, help to find schools in a new area, debt advice and debt management, or help to build a support network by putting them in touch with community organisations local to their new home.
Once a family is settled, in a more permanent home, the Temporary Accommodation Support team can refer them to other services within Gateway for extra help. For issues around obesity and healthy eating, or smoking cessation, for example, we can provide a Health Trainer to work with them. Or if there’s a need for help to become work ready we have volunteering opportunities, courses and trainee placements.
Relocation Worker Collette says, “I expressed an interest in this role, not just because I wanted the opportunity to use the skills I’ve built up as a POW over the last few years, but to learn more about housing issues and processes. We get a lot of people with housing issues referred to the POW service so this is a good opportunity to find out more about it, and to make new contacts that will be beneficial for all of Gateway’s services.”
This is our first time working directly with Birmingham City Council and we’re delighted to be involved with this project. We’ve got an important part to play in tackling the issues of homelessness in the city.