Theresa May’s comments at PMQs are a kick in the teeth to all homeless children this Christmas

Emily Apple

At Prime Minister’s Questions (PMQs) on Wednesday 20 December, Theresa May gave a kick in the teeth to all children facing homelessness this Christmas. Because May seems to be in denial over the horrific situation that many of them are facing.

It’s OK, they’re not really homeless

May was asked a question about the thousands of children in Wandsworth who’ll be homeless this Christmas. But she responded by trying to subvert the figures:

Anybody hearing that will assume that what that means is that two-and-half thousand children will be sleeping on our streets… It does not mean that.

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The legal definition

But the legal definition does not just mean sleeping on the streets. And May’s assertion that people don’t realise this is patronising. In fact, the legal definition includes and is not limited to:

  • Having no accommodation at all.
  • Having accommodation that is not reasonable to live in, even in the short-term (eg because of violence or health reasons).
  • Having a legal right to accommodation that you cannot access (eg if you have been evicted illegally).
  • Living in accommodation you have no legal right to occupy (eg living in a squat or staying with friends temporarily).

A housing crisis

Information released from Wandsworth Council epitomises the housing crisis that the rest of the country is facing. It shows that 2,179 children in Wandsworth will be homeless this Christmas. And a statement by Wandsworth Labour makes clear that the “heartbreaking” situations many homeless families find themselves in are due to being in temporary accommodation. This includes the story of a mother with an autistic son and a ten-month-old baby who are in rat-infested temporary accommodation.

So please take note, Mrs May. We do know what homelessness means. We do know that it doesn’t necessarily mean children sleeping on our streets. But we also know that it includes children living in unsafe, unsuitable temporary accommodation. It means families forced to live in one room. It means children who do not have a bedroom or safety or security.

This government should be utterly ashamed that so many children in just one borough will be waking up on Christmas morning in such conditions. And it is appalling that we have a Prime Minister who thinks she can attempt to spin these figures into anything that isn’t a complete disgrace.

Get Involved!

– Volunteer to help feed homeless people this Christmas.

Featured image via screengrab

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