"Hundreds of thousands of children are living in homes that are too small to allow them space to sleep comfortably, to enjoy normal standards of hygiene and privacy or room to do their homework."
The definition of overcrowding has become Victorian, trapping families for years in unsuitable homes. Parents on average wages, unable to afford the mad current private rents or mortgages, can no longer expect to gradually move up a social housing ladder as their family grows.
Instead they are likely to be told sitting rooms are sleeping spaces, children under 10 don’t count as full people and those under a year don’t count at all. It is even apparently legal to tell people to sleep in a kitchen if there is room for a bed there.
For decades studies on overcrowding have shown the same results. Living in cramped conditions increases children’s breathing problems; many do less well at school. They are more likely to be injured at home, contract meningitis or TB, and develop mental health problems.
Housing workers are understandably becoming numbed as they obey regulations that deny children’s need for privacy, space, quiet and safety. It is not their individual fault that not enough affordable homes are being built.
But making it “normal” to state to parents that their children are half people is surely a step too far.
Because, simply, every child is a complete, full person. When that curious toddler clambers out of a cot crammed in the corner of an open plan sitting room, and scalds the skin from his little arm as he knocks the boiling kettle, he screams and hurts. Calling a seven year old “half a person” does not make her one. She is as much in need of a home where she can play with her friends, eat at a table and do her homework, as the little girl born in a wealthier family.
It is the housing crisis, the lack of decent genuinely affordable homes, which is the problem.
We all really need to be joining our tenants associations or setting them up if we don’t have one. By working together to lobby for change, we can ensure that our children get the homes they deserve.