Extend the law that protects children from homelessness to pregnant mothers
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Single mothers are discriminated against in the housing market, however they are not a priority for housing needs team until their child is born, this puts an unnecessary pressure and stress on pregnant women, affecting their wellbeing as well as that of their unborn child. Also they are then often put in unsuitable emergency accommodation with their newborns.
To extent the existing law that protects our children from homelessness to expectant mothers from the 24th week of pregnancy, putting them in a higher priority when looking for accommodation.
I’d like to share my story of being abandoned pregnant in order to help others in a similar situation and to raise awareness of the petition I am putting together to change the law in order to protect our children and their mothers more effectively. So please comment and share abundantly, every little helps.
In February 2018, I was running my own business in massage and NLP/Hypnotherapy and growing it to new heights, I was in the midst of writing my first book, I was horse riding, dancing and generally enjoying life. I was single and looking for the ‘one’ to have family with, as at 37yrs old I started to feel the pressure of the ticking biological clock.
In February 2018, I met someone wonderful and completely fell in love. He constantly spoke of having children with me and having seen him interact with his children from a previous relationship, I believed he’d be a great father.
Therefore, it’s been a bit of a shock to the system, when I found out I was pregnant two month into our relationship despite the precautions I took and he left the country shortly after. Although he stayed in touch, he’s provided no financial or practical support thus far, apart from doing a bit of shopping for the baby when he came for two days in November. I found out he was in a relationship with the mother of his children all along. It dawned on me very quickly that I am on my own in this. I immediately started to make changes in my life to accommodate this new adventure. There was no doubt in my mind that I’d keep this baby. Whatever the circumstances, I knew this could be my last chance at having children and I felt attached to this new life within me from the moment I found out.
I had to stop doing massage (a big chunk of my income) and find a job to support myself during the pregnancy. It was not easy as the jobs suitable to my skills set are not all suitable to pregnancy and most places were not keen on taking on a pregnant woman. Luckily someone did and I found a job as a support worker for people with autism and learning difficulties. Finding suitable accommodation has also proved tricky. I applied to Haringey council in June 2018. Initially they refused, but after a successful appeal, they had now taken responsibility for me. However, the communication is very sparse and vague. I do not know what is happening or likely to happen. I’ve never claimed for anything prior to becoming pregnant and am quite unfamiliar with the system.
At this stage, it appears, that they are waiting for me to give birth, place me into emergency accommodation and only then start looking for a suitable accommodation for me and my baby. This option is causing me high levels of anxiety and I have little understanding for its necessity. It does not make sense to me. Right now, I am seven month pregnant, due on 27.12.2018 and I am able and have the time to look for the accommodation myself. All I need is the guarantee that the Housing team will pay for the first month rent and the deposit and the specifications of the accommodation I am entitled to and I can do the work myself.
I spoke to my case worker on 23.11. as he finally seemed to start doing something (probably due to a letter from my MP Dawn Butler). He asked me to get Universal credit as Haringey are fully on the scheme now. However, my temporary accommodation is in Brent and UC has not rolled out in my post code yet. Also I do not have a contract as I am staying with a friend. He told me to call Brent housing benefits for them to do eligibility assessment. I did. I was on the phone for an hour before someone answered only to be told they were not sure they could help me, they would check and call me back within an hour. I cancelled my client for that afternoon to make sure I would not miss the call that never came. Now I have to wait till Monday to repeat the process. With only five weeks to go till my due date, this is really frustrating and scary.
I did not choose to be abandoned by the father of my child and left alone to pick up the pieces. I used to be a police constable in the Met police and still volunteer within the service as a MSC. I have my own business that I had to change completely due to being pregnant. I found a part time job to supplement my very diminished income. I am doing all I can to provide for myself and my child without external help. I’ve never wanted to be or planned to be on any kind of benefits in my life, but my baby is a priority and so I have to continuously swallow my pride and keep asking. I do not have family here and my friends are not in a position to help me other than by providing emotional support and donating some baby stuff, which is amazing, but does not pay the rent or food (although sometimes they pay for my shopping).
I don’t know if you have children or at least nephews or nieces, but coming home with the first newborn is really stressful time. It’s hard enough to be alone in this, so with the added pressure of not being able to prepare for the arrival of my child, it’s taking my anxiety to another level. As someone with history of depression, being single and first time mum and having a child in the winter, my risk of suffering post natal depression is through the roof.
Also if I am given accommodation only after my baby is born then I am really worried about my ability to look for flats in the first six weeks, with a newborn, using public transport in January and February. The risk of harm and illness to my child and myself is much higher during that time, especially in the winter. Also sharing emergency accommodation with others could significantly raise the risk of infection. And others in hostels mean people who just came out of prison, off the streets, often with alcohol, drug and mental health issues, as well as domestic violence perpetrators on bail. How is that a suitable environment for a baby with developing immune system (bathroom and kitchen are shared!) and how is it safe for an exhausted new mum?
Not mentioning the fact I am due at Christmas. The idea of spending Christmas in a hostel alone with my newborn is extremely distressing.
Right now, with a month to go, I have the time and ability to look for accommodation, move my stuff and start getting ready for my baby by getting a cot, pushchair, clothes and nappies, which I do not have space for right now...
All I need is a confirmation that they will pay for the first month rent and the deposit and the specifications for the property and I will look for it myself, hopefully saving them time and effort.
I’d really appreciate if the housing team gave me a call and let me know what is happening and what are my options as this heightened level of stress is really damaging to my and my baby’s health.
I’ve contacted the local MPs, Mr Lammy and Ms Dawn Butler, who have helped me, but their influence is limited and neither if them is supporting my petition. I am taking this day by day, doing my best to keep my anxiety in check to protect my son. I’ve never been through such challenging time before and I had gone through a lot, including a death of my husband.
Going through all this has led me to a realisation that more support is needed for pregnant women in this or similar situation.
I therefore decided to file a petition for the law that already protects our children when it comes to housing to be extended to unborn children from 24th week of pregnancy onwards.
At 24 weeks most pregnancies are viable and the survival rate of babies born in a 24 week or later is significantly high. At 24 weeks if baby is born dead, it is no longer miscarriage, it is still birth. The medical system considers a baby from this age to be a living human being and abortions are not allowed after this stage.
Unborn babies are of course closely connected to their mothers and many studies have shown that the stress mother experiences can negatively affect the foetus and its development. Considering the expenses the government might need to go to if the child is born with a disability or learning difficulty, surely ensuring the child’s health and wellbeing during its development should be crucial and in practical terms, it means offering a priority position to a mother only four months earlier than now. Putting new mums and newborns through emergency accommodation when it can be avoided is dangerous if not downright cruel.
This is something many people feel quite strongly about as the responses to my blog and my recent interview have shown and I am confident I will get the signatures required thanks to my presence on several social media platforms as well as knowing people with great social coverage, who are onboard. My aim is to raise awareness as well as actually change the law to achieve more practical help and compassion for expecting mothers and their children.
In an ideal world, every mother would have a loving and caring partner supporting her through pregnancy and beyond, family affluent enough to help provide for the couple in the most vulnerable stage in their family life, without the need for recourse to public funds. Sadly, we do not live in an ideal world. I have been paying taxes and National Insurance for many years. My understanding of NI is that you are paying an insurance just in case you hit hard times. Well, I am temporarily hitting hard times, surely I am entitled for my insurance to cover this.
And you might sit in your comfy house after driving home in your car from your secure job to your lovely family, but life can turn so quickly, this could be you. Health can disappear over night, terrible accidents happen, houses burn down, floods destroy livelihoods, relationships break up, you just never know what is around a corner and if that insurance means nothing, who will you turn to?
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