How we Supported Mum “J”

J is a 19 year old single mum of 4 month old. When Home-Start first started supporting her, her daughter was 2 months old. She was living with her aunt and uncle who were very abusive to her. They did not approve of her being a single parent for religious reasons. They isolated her, refused to touch the baby and repeatedly called her a bastard. We referred her to the local domestic abuse support provider.

1 week after the initial assessment, and just as the coronavirus crisis was starting, she contacted Home-Start – her aunt and uncle had thrown her out and she was homeless. We met J at the Lambeth civic office where she was very distressed. After filling out many forms and going back and forth between departments the council agreed they had a duty to house her but there were no spaces in mother and baby units and they were unable to help her that day. She was given an appointment for the following Monday and went to stay at on a friend’s sofa in Mitcham for the weekend. Home-Start provided her with £50 from our hardship fund – when she was made homeless she had £20 in her pocket.  At this point the local domestic abuse service ended their support as she was now out of borough.

Home-Start Lambeth supported J at the Monday meeting with the housing department and were successful in getting her a place in a hostel. However, the following day J contacted us to say the hostel was not suitable. The hostel was ordinarily used to house sex workers and people with drug and alcohol problems. She was sharing a room with 3 other people who would complain when the baby would cry. The bathroom was on another floor and it was not safe for her to leave her sleeping baby to go to the toilet. She was desperate to leave but we advised her to stay as otherwise she would be considered as having made herself intentionally homeless. We contacted the housing office and advocated for her and her baby to be provided with more suitable accommodation to ensure her child’s welfare. A few hours after the call, J was contacted and informed they had identified a flat for her in Croydon.

The next day, J had keys to a studio flat in Croydon which contained no white goods. Over the next few weeks, with the team now all working from home, we continued to offer support. We connected J to the local Covid-19 support group who supplied her with a fridge as well as food and baby items. We liaised with her landlord to arrange for the heating to be fixed, despite the lockdown. We also supported her to locate and complete the correct form for housing benefit and to update her Universal Credit claim. This increased her monthly allowance from £80 to £200. We contacted the charity Little Village and secured some clothes for the baby. We also referred J to a Croydon based domestic abuse support service. As J is now in Croydon our support has ended, but she is now in a position where she and her baby can start building a new life together.

 

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