Council tries to send homeless single mother to Birmingham
The woman and her two young children are currently sleeping in a living room
By Natalie Bloomer
A Corby mum facing homelessness was told by North Northamptonshire Council that the only accommodation available to her was more than 60 miles away in Birmingham.
Gemma* was forced to move into her 20 year-old son’s one bedroom flat with her two young children after the breakdown of a relationship.
The family of three have been sleeping in the living room of the property while Gemma waits for help from the council.
“It’s been really stressful, my 3 year-old son has learning difficulties and he really doesn’t deal with change well. It’s making me depressed, all of our support network is in Corby. My children are at school and pre-school in the town. I can’t move to Birmingham,” Gemma said.
Gemma is the carer for her eldest son who also has learning disabilities. She says she can’t leave him to move out of the area, and doesn’t want to be isolated from her family and friends.
“I am really annoyed at how I’ve been treated. I don’t drive so it wouldn’t even be easy for me to travel back to Corby.”
After being offered the property in Birmingham, local Labour councillors contacted NNC on her behalf expressing their concern about the situation. In response, Cllr Matt Binley the executive member for housing told the councillors that while he had sympathy for Gemma the Birmingham offer was only a temporary measure and was therefore ‘acceptable’.
Leader of the Labour group Cllr John McGhee replied that this was not a situation any person would want to see their own daughter in and asked when the council became so ‘uncaring’. Cllr Binley then suggested that if anyone was to blame for the situation it was Gemma’s 20 year-old son for no longer being able to house her and his younger siblings. He went on to say that sometimes difficult decisions need to be made.
In May NN Journal reported that residents in North Northamptonshire in need of social housing were facing waits of up to six months to even be assessed.
Labour Councillor for Corby West Alison Dalziel who has been trying to assist Gemma told us:
“This is a distressing situation for the whole family whose lives and support network are here in Corby. North Northants Council boasts of having lower numbers of people in out of area temporary accommodation so why didn’t they find a better solution than to send this family to Birmingham.”
At the end of last year, research by the housing charity Shelter found that the number of women living in temporary accommodation in England had increased by 88 per cent in ten years with one in four single mothers living in a home that harms their physical or mental health. Chief executive of Shelter Polly Neate said at the time:
“Women are bearing the brunt of our escalating housing crisis, and they are being failed at every turn…If we’re going to turn back the tide on women’s homelessness, we need to listen to women and better understand their needs.”
Councils in London have long been criticised for shipping homeless single mothers out of the capital to towns and cities miles away from their support networks.
Since Gemma first spoke to NN Journal about her story late last week, North Northamptonshire Council have offered her accommodation in Kettering.
In a statement, Cllr Matt Binley said: “We have been working with Gemma to find her temporary accommodation and have now been able to offer her a place in Kettering. However, the team is working hard to find Gemma and her family a permanent home in Corby, which would be her preference.
“When someone becomes homeless the temporary accommodation team attempts to find people a suitable place to live in the area. Sometimes it is not possible to find emergency accommodation in the immediate area and that is when people are temporarily placed out of the area, until a home can be found in the locality.
“The team do their very best to keep people as close as possible to their support networks. Unfortunately, this is not always possible due to pressures on the service caused by various peaks in demand, the circumstances of the case and how many people require temporary accommodation. The team continues to work on cases to find alternative accommodation as soon as possible and cases are reviewed daily.
“NNC are doing all they can to eliminate out of area temporary accommodation. We currently have the lowest level of out of area placements we have had as a council: 10 placements (five of which are in Northampton), compared to 43 placed outside of North Northants on October 21, 2021, and 36 on February 28, 2022.
“However, we recognise that more can be done, and we are continuously working to improve.”
*Name has been changed
Read more about social housing issues in North Northamptonshire here:
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