Labour politician and London Mayoral hopeful Tessa Jowell. Picture: National Archives
Published: 10 April, 2015
LONDON Mayoral hopeful Tessa Jowell has hit out at Westminster Council after it was revealed that the number of homeless children living in the borough shot up by 10 per cent over the past year.
According to figures released by the Department for Communities, and Local Government more than 3,800 children were living in temporary accommodation in the final quarter of 2014, up from just over 3,400 at the same time in 2013.
This puts Westminster seventh overall in London for the highest number of children without a home, after Haringey, Brent, Newham, Enfield, Tower Hamlets and Croydon.
Neighbouring Brent has one of the highest rates overall, with 5,140 homeless children in 2014, but this represents an 8 per cent fall from the same point in 2013.
Commenting on the figures, Labour politician Ms Jowell said: “It’s heartbreaking to see so many children in Westminster growing up without the basic necessity of their own home.
“The fact that nearly 4,000 Westminster children are homeless is bad enough, but if you look at London as a whole, the situation should shame us all. Inequality is robbing these children of their childhood. We have to build more houses, we have to tackle the inequality in London and we have to start binding our city back together to build one London, not two.”
The council has been accused of “social cleansing” in recent weeks after the West End Extra revealed that it had spent £6.2million hoovering up properties in boroughs such as Newham and Enfield to house its homeless families – boroughs which, according to the figures, are facing their own child homelessness crisis.
Saskia O’Hara, from campaign group E15 Mothers, which fights for homeless mothers in Newham who face being relocated to Birmingham and Manchester, said: “This just further demonstrates the chaos of the London housing crisis, where people’s needs are irrelevant and London boroughs are moving the working class and homeless out of their own borough, to poorer boroughs, or totally outside of London. This is another form of the widespread social cleansing.”
Joanna Kennedy, chief executive of poverty charity Z2K said: “The number of vulnerable young children growing up in temporary accommodation in Westminster shows just how acute the shortage of social housing is in the capital.
“While Westminster has done well to end the illegal use of bed and breakfast accommodation for families with children, the truth is that many are still living in places with shared facilities, which is often equally inappropriate.
“The official figures also reveal that around half Westminster’s homeless households are placed outside the borough, which suggests that as many as 2,000 children have been uprooted from their schools and friends and sent to Newham, Barking and beyond. It is absolutely bizarre that councillors in the ruling group in Westminster still refuse to join those opposing the government’s benefit cap.”
A Westminster City Council spokesperson said: “Ensuring that every child in Westminster has the best start in life is a top priority for the city council. When securing accommodation for families in housing need the welfare of any children involved is a primary concern, and our housing options team aims to secure permanent accommodation wherever possible – something that is reflected in these figures.
“We also work with partners to provide services and support to low-income households to make sure children in Westminster can access opportunities and reach their potential from an early age.
“Like many other London boroughs, we are taking the practical step of securing accommodation in areas where property is cheaper so that we can provide homes for families who need them.”