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Families living in a ‘multimillion-pound death trap’

Vulnerable children forced to sleep in dangerous conditions, says MP

NEARLY 100 homeless families are forced to live in cramped and dangerous conditions on an industrial estate, Labour MP Siobhain McDonagh said yesterday – and many similar “death traps” exist across the country six months on from the Grenfell atrocity.

Eighty-four families – including around 200 children – are “desperate to escape” Connect House in Mitcham, south London, the MP for Mitcham and Morden  said during the Commons debate.

Ms McDonagh said that the location of the estate was so remote that one resident had to give birth in a car park without assistance because the ambulance crew couldn't find the estate, with the woman losing her baby as a result.

She also highlighted that lorries and heavy-duty machinery were constantly in use in the immediate vicinity, causing “serious danger” to residents who have been placed there in temporary accommodation by four different councils, she added.

Bromley, Croydon, Merton and Sutton councils pay around £30-40 per room per night resulting in an estimated cost of £1.25-£1.5 million to the taxpayer each year.

The MP for Mitcham and Morden said: “Connect House is a multimillion-pound death trap in the heart of an industrial estate.

“Local authorities are housing families here without having even seen the property and the danger that they are placing their residents in. This is, quite simply, an accident waiting to happen.”

Children often have to share beds with their siblings and/or parents. Ms McDonagh said that resident Laura shares a tiny room with her teenage daughter despite having a spinal disability.

She sleeps during the day so her daughter can sleep in the bed at night, and had to move belongings out of the room just so she and Ms McDonagh could both fit inside when she gave her a tour.

A resident called Sarah has two small children who are confined to the industrial estate – that is occupied by scaffolding and building businesses – day in, day out. Her baby boy was taken to the doctor with a wheezy cough which was attributed directly to fumes outside.

“There is a Connect House in many of our constituencies,” Ms McDonagh said.

She called on the government to ensure that families do not live in temporary accommodation, including bed and breakfast hotels, for more than six weeks.

Minimum standards for temporary accommodation should also apply, she added, as well as the “fundamental” provision of a designated officer in every council who is made aware when people from another local authority are allocated temporary accommodation in the area.
 
She said a total of 78,180 families – including 120,170 children – are living in temporary accommodation, with the number of children in temporary accommodation increasing by two thirds since the Tories came in to power in 2010.

Some 6,660 households are put in bed and breakfast hotels, with 1,200 of them having been housed in them for longer than the six-week legal limit.

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