An East London Council’s plan to accommodate its homeless families 60 miles away has exposed the ridiculous consequences behind government policies.
The story begins with the East London Borough of Redbridge. Like all Councils, it has a statutory duty to house vulnerable people – including homeless families. Due to government policy, under which Councils have not been able to build new homes and capital grants to build housing has all but dried up, Redbridge can’t house its own homeless in Redbridge. Homeless families on low or medium incomes cannot afford private rents – in fact, many of them may have been thrown out of private rented accommodation anyway. In other words, the Government has given Redbridge Council a duty to house homeless families, but has denied it the means to do so.
Redbridge Council therefore had to look further afield for accommodation. It came across a disused army barracks in Canterbury, over 60 miles away, outside London and secured the site for its homeless. These families will have a roof over the heads – but will effectively lose the support of their local communities. Children will have to leave their schools; families will not be able to stay with GPs who may have built up a knowledge of their health; they will be sent away from networks of friends and families who may have helped with childcare. Many of the family members who are in work will have to leave their jobs, as they either won’t be able to commute back to Redbridge each day or won’t be able to afford to do so.
Yes, that’s a terrible count of human suffering under Government housing policy. Unfortunately, there is more.
Canterbury City Council had been looking at those barracks to house its own homeless families. It claimed that Redbridge had won out in the contest for the site as it had more financial resources. Now, not only does Canterbury Council have to find somewhere else for its homeless – it will also have to fund school places for the Redbridge children taken out of schools in Redbridge and sent to the Canterbury barracks. It will also have to fund any other services the former east London residents rely on – social services, refuse collection, etc.
Perhaps Canterbury should have a quick look for any sites 60 miles away that can be converted for its homes people, and local authorities could then play a giant game of human snooker, with each set of families knocking the next ones 60 miles further on. Unfortunately, given Canterbury’s position near the eastern tip of Kent, this would involve sending families to France… It’s probably not very realistic to look for accommodation in Calais right now.