Social Services Failing Migrant Children by Providing Inadequate Housing

At WTB Solicitors we are proud of the fact we are a multi-service firm and one of the largest legal aid providers in Manchester. As we have family law, immigration and housing departments we are often able to be a “one stop shop” for clients. We frequently cross refer clients to ensure that they get all the assistance they need and tailor appointments so that in one visit they can get all the relevant expert advice.

The Hackney Community Law Centre and Hackney Migrant Centre have recently published “A Place To Call Home – A Report into the Standard of Accommodation provided to Children in Need in London”. The report, funded by the Strategic Legal Fund for Vulnerable Young Migrants, found that children’s services are “failing” destitute migrant children by placing them in inadequate housing, research has found.

The research looked at the housing support offered to destitute migrant children and their families under section 17 of the Children Act 1989 and found that two thirds of the housing was “short of meeting the practical and emotional needs of the children and their principle carers”.

s17 of the Children Act 1989 provides a general duty of every local authority (in addition to the other duties imposed on them by this Part)—

  • (a)to safeguard and promote the welfare of children within their area who are in need; and
  • (b)so far as is consistent with that duty, to promote the upbringing of such children by their families,
  • by providing a range and level of services appropriate to those children’s needs.

There are also specific duties including; providing services for the family of a particular child in need or for any member of his family, if it is provided with a view to safeguarding or promoting the child’s welfare, shall facilitate the provision by others (including in particular voluntary organisations) of services which may make such arrangements as they see fit for any person to act on their behalf in the provision of any such service. Services may include the provision of accommodation, giving assistance in kind or cash.

The report found that for the families involved in the study the housing provided included inappropriate cooking facilities, damp and mouldy environments and the fact families were often moved away from previous familiar areas. As a result of home conditions children were being affected and were experiencing stress, anxiety and depression.

Community Care commented that “the study argued that local authorities were not meeting their duties under the Children Act 1989 because the support being given did not meet the standard of section 17.”

The report suggested its findings should form guidance for social workers on how to approach support in these cases, and that housing should be viewed from a safeguarding perspective. It recommended that the government set in statute the basic standards of accommodation which should be provided under section 17. It also highlighted a need for children’s services to work closely with housing departments to make sure homes adequately promote a child’s welfare.

If you are experiencing difficulties similar to the ones highlighted in this article please call us on 0161 224 3311 so we can help you.