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Handing in our cot campaign petition to 10 Downing Street

  • 3 min read |
  • Posted by Signe
  • On 04 March 2024

On Tuesday 5th of March, we visited 10 Downing Street to deliver our petition on securing cots in Temporary Accommodation (TA) for families with children under the age of two. We did this alongside Shared Health, the Bishop of Manchester, David Walker, and MPs Siobhain McDonagh, Rebecca Long-Bailey and Andrew Western from the APPG for TA.

The Silent Nightmare campaign was launched in November 2023, asking the government to change the code of guidance to state that cots should be provided to every child under 2 in TA, giving them a safer place to sleep. The petition gathered more than 5000 signatures.

Why it is important

There are many reasons families end up in TA, entering into an unknown and unpredictable situation. Whatever the backstory, it is a very disruptive experience. We know that this uncertainty, and the subsequent series of changes that follow as families go through the homeless journey, have a significant impact on children of all ages.

Homelessness affects children’s learning, development, social skills, growth, health, and relationships. For very young children and babies, several factors increase the risk of sudden and unexpected death. Figures from the National Child Mortality Database, revealed by the APPG on TA, shows there is a higher level of small children and babies dying in temporary accommodation than expected. On Monday, ITV news broke the devastating news that 55 children had died in TA - a number that has risen since figures were last reported in 2023.

Factors that increase the risk of death in TA include the age of the child, poverty, change in routine, environmental factors including basic standards in the accommodation, underlying medical conditions and sleeping arrangements.

Some factors are easier to mitigate than others, but each creates a kind of multiplier effect. With the change to the Homelessness Code of Guidance, we can take action to reduce sudden unexpected death through ensuring that safer sleep arrangements are in place.

Change to the Homelessness Code of Guidance

I am clear that accommodation that does not have space for a cot is clearly not suitable if the household contains a child under two. I also recognise that the Homelessness Code of Guidance could more clearly highlight the support housing authorities should be providing to families where a cot may not be available

Felicity Buchan MP, Minister for Housing and Homelessness

The good news is that the petition has already been successful. On Wednesday 28th Feb, after working with Justlife and Shared Health, Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC) sent a letter to all Local Authorities, alongside a letter from Shared Health's CEO and safer sleeping advice from The Lullaby Trust.

The letter states that Chapter 17, Suitability of Accommodation of the Homelessness Code of Guidance, has been updated to make it explicit that temporary accommodation should not be considered suitable for a family with children under 2 if there is not enough space for a cot and that housing authorities should support families to secure a cot where needed.

We want to thank DLUHC and Minister Buchan for working with us and taking prompt action to make these changes. And of course all of you who signed the petition. It is heartening to see our efforts pay off so quickly.

While this is a big step forward, so much more needs to be done to ensure that time spent in TA is safe and healthy.

This intervention will only save lives if it is actually implemented

Siobhain Mcdonagh MP, Chair of the APPG on TA

There are numerous reasons why this keeps happening. We are therefore asking Rishi Sunak to set up a cross-departmental Homeless Families Task Force to work on long-term, comprehensive and implementable solutions, so that we don't keep having to hear of increasing numbers of unexpected and avoidable child deaths in Temporary Accommodation.

The harsh reality for too many families with children in TA has led Amnesty UK to create a new drama, starring Olivia Colman, based on the real-life experiences of a mother who wanted to remain anonymous. Watch the trailer here to get a sense of the lives, and deaths, behind the numbers.

You can watch ITV's full report on child death in temporary accommodation here.