Exclusive: Investigation reveals effect of Government welfare cuts on children who fall through the net
Children in homeless families who have been shunted out of their local areas by councils trying to save money on accommodation are dying from neglect and abuse, after disappearing from support services during their moves.
The legacy of the housing crisis and the Government’s cuts to welfare is proving deadly for some of the most vulnerable people in the country, an Independent investigation has found. Evidence suggests that the transfer of homeless families to other parts of the country could have resulted in suicides and miscarriages.
Tens of thousands more are at risk from the damaging practice because councils, unable to cope after years of budget cuts, are not meeting their basic safeguarding duty and the current system is not fit for purpose, experts say.
Anti-poverty campaigners say the revelations show the potential impacts of what Iain Duncan Smith called “inexcusable” and “unfair” benefit cuts when he resigned as the Work and Pensions Secretary last week.
The problem is proving particularly acute in London. Figures obtained by this newspaper show that 64,704 homeless families were moved by councils in the capital between July 2011 and June 2015, with 4,053 families moved out of Greater London completely.
The Independent understands that dozens of local authorities have raised serious concerns about whether they have sufficient information to support families moved into their area and are not aware of problems until crisis point. The cases uncovered include:
- the death of a six-month-old child from head injuries
- a 13-month-old child who died from ongoing abuse
- the death of a neglected one-year-old baby
- an eight-month pregnant woman who miscarried after collapsing from stress and exhaustion
- the death of a seven-year-old boy.
The Independent has also documented more than 20 cases of councils threatening to pull families apart and take children into care if homeless families do not accept out-of-area moves, more than 100 cases of depression caused by forced moves, and more than 30 cases of homeless children unable to attend school.