Following the March 2020 lockdown there was a significant increase in homelessness due to the rise in redundancy and cuts in Universal Credit which meant that families were evicted from their homes and forced to stay in B&B’s. Reports show that up to 1,100 families may have spent part of lockdown in B&Bs exceeding the lawful 6 week limit, forcing them to relocate from hotel to hotel.
According to the Children Commissioner’s report the B&B’s would be extremely cramped in which children would have to do their school work and spend most of their days. There were some instances where children would have to be loaned laptops from their schools, however due to their stay at the B&B this meant extra expenses on top for parents to utilise the premises’ Wi-Fi. Not only was school work effected, but they would encounter anti-social, threatening people within the premises such as drunk residents or be subjected to a domestic violence situation.
Often if children are being subject to mistreatment teachers and social workers are the first to pick up such signs, however due to the closure of schools from March 2020 until the summer such children were essentially neglected.
Story of Michael
After being evicted alongside his mother and young siblings, he had relocated to different hotels approximately 11 times. He had only been given a laptop towards the end of June 2020 which meant he was behind his peers on workload, to make it worse his family had to pay for Wi-Fi and other expenses such as takeaway because of the limited provisions of the B&B . Therefore they were limited on finances. Michael did not feel safe as there were NHS workers isolating in the hotel for fear of their own family contracting the virus. There was ‘no way out’ for Michael.
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Following the Children Commissioner’s report there has been a number of suggestions to accommodate towards British homeless children.
- Children would have to be given extra support during school now that it has recommenced, including tuition which would be funded by the Department for Education’s £1 billion catch up programme.
- On the point of homelessness, the Council on the Government’s direction should provide funding enabling families to obtain adequate accommodation instead of resorting to B&B’s.
- The government should compile a ‘package of support’ to help vulnerable families meet housing costs in such events.
- Schools are to closely invigilate pupils and identify any support needed.
- The NHS are to prioritise homeless children for access to mental and physical health support, including health visitor checks and Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS).
In a future lockdown
There is an anticipated ‘second lockdown’, following Boris Johnson’s unpredictable advice the Government should take on board the Commissioner’s report and be strategic with funding and support. Funding from the Government is often the main theme which occurs in recommendations linked to vulnerable people. This suggests the priorities and decisions of the Government have not been efficient in targeting these vulnerable children.