Supporting Birmingham’s B&B families

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.

6 comments

  1. Mohamed Omer says:

    Hi, I am now over 60 y old, and have a family 2 adults+5 children, we are living in a temporary accomodation, my wife
    has a mental problem,my daughter suffering by asthma and bronchites, the healthy situation of the family is not so good, we need your help, Thank you.

    • Katherine Hewitt says:

      Hi Mohamed
      I’ve already responded to you via your personal email address but just in case you didn’t get it. This piece of work we’re doing with families in Temporary Accommodation is with Council Tenants. I’m not sure if this is you and your family or not? Whatever we want to help. I’ve asked a few questions in my email that will help us to signpost you in the right direction.

  2. Sujata says:

    Hello there i am pregnant women with 3kids and facing abuse. I have been to women’s aid the hub they have done almost everything and council had accept me as homeless as well and very soon will start bidding. But i am still living with my partner as trying for refugee Accommodation as i dont want to go to B&B as it will be difficult for me, as i have read so many case facing so many difficulty in B&B. But refugee not willing to give me place in birmingham, i know they are doing for my safety but i am stock and helpless at the moment as i am pregnant and having look after 3 kids. Its just there is a old lady in birminghm whom i treat like my mom who is willing to help me to look after my kids if i had to go to hospital or so, thats why i dont want to move out of birmingham at this time. Is there any thing you can help me with accomodation at this time being

    • Katherine Hewitt says:

      I’m so sorry to hear all this. It sounds like you’re having a tough time and can understand you not wanting to leave the little bit of support you have. We dont provide any emergency accommodation and sadly the project we used to run that supported families living in temporary accommodation stopped some years ago. We would suggest to you that you contact Women’s aid – which you’ve done already. They feel your best port of call. Also if you feel at any point in immediate danger of abuse/or if the abuse gets to a point where you cant continue living with your partner you should go to a local housing office as there will be a duty to find you emergency accommodation. Like you understand there wont necessarily be a choice as to where this accomm is.

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