Debate on child protection and housing

    We asked:- Do you think the Children Bill should be
    amended to make formal links between child protection and housing
    policy?

    These are some of the comments we
    received:-

    “I do think the Children Bill should be amended to make
    links between child protection and housing.  The rights of single
    people to adequate housing should not be made to suffer
    though.
     
    The television in my rented one-roomed flat talks to ‘home
    owners’ in debt and investors in property. NSPCC ‘Stop
    It!’ advertisements highlight a toddler who’s “learned
    that no-one comes when he cries for help.”

    Adults in UK poverty have no such not-for-profit broadcasting
    advocate, even when we pay our license fees.”

    Alan Wheatley

    “I very much agree for child protection policy to be linked
    to housing policy because from my experience there are a lot of
    children who are suffering from emotional and behavioural
    difficulties/underachievement in education, which is very much
    linked to poor housing condition.”

    Anonymous

    “Social workers duties under the Children Act include keeping
    families
    together, if this is in the child’s interest. The housing
    department does not
    have this duty.

    The Homeless Act 2002 imposes responsibilities for homelessness
    on local
    housing authorities to review and publish their strategies and
    social
    services to assist in their production. Reviews must consider
    preventing
    homelessness, securing accommodation. How do we audit any of this
    to check
    strategies are working? How many services jointly assess housing,
    health,
    support needs, or protection issues?

    As a Community Support Worker specialising in housing for a
    Community Mental Health Team, I worked closely with the local
    housing department and found developing a good relationship with
    local housing associations who held most of the vacancies
    was equally important.

    However, I was shocked that a housing officer’s response to a
    disabled person who
    a Community Psychiatric Nurse had asked me to assist with housing
    regarding a situation of domestic violence and three young children
    was:- “If you leave, you make yourself
    intentionally homeless and we then have no housing duty.”

    Yet a person who suffers domestic violence and leaves in
    consequence of an
    act of someone else – is not doing so deliberately and therefore
    they are
    not making themselves intentionally homeless. In fact they have a
    priority
    need as a result of being vulnerable, (Homelessness Order 2002),
    let alone
    as a result of having a physical disability and dependent
    children.

    Relationship breakdown due to domestic violence is a major cause
    of
    homelessness, and in 2002, 64 per cent of all homeless households
    were
    reported as families with children (Brayne & Carr, p.638).

    An injunction can be obtained requiring the perpetrator of
    violence to leave
    the property, or housing association can evict and this person is
    treated as
    intentionally homeless, because they caused it, but even abusers
    can be
    assisted to find somewhere else to live.”

    H. Brayne &  H. Carr,  Law for Social Workers (Oxford,
    2003).
    R. Johannsen

     

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