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Megan Fereday

Megan is Communications Assistant at Commonweal Housing.

Overlooked and marginalised? The experience of separated parents in shared accommodation

In December 2017 we supported the Cambridge Centre for Housing and Planning Research (CCHPR) to investigate experiences of non-resident parents living in shared accommodation.  The research demonstrated that non-resident status tends to predominantly affect fathers, so for Father’s Day we asked Kathryn Muir from the Centre to reflect on the research and next steps for investigation.

Set against a backdrop of societal change and evolving family dynamics, separated parents are not unusual in modern-day Britain. For some, rising house prices and the costliness of renting means that their only option is to live as ‘non-resident parents’ in shared accommodation.

Our research sought to investigate the impact a shared-living situation could have on separated and non-resident parents’ experiences, and to identify factors which could lessen the negative impact of this housing arrangement.

It was clear from the research that shared housing is problematic for parents and their visiting children, due to a range of factors including lack of space, housemate behaviour and poor conditions. These problems evidently impact on the wellbeing of both visiting children and parents themselves.

To carry on the discussion, we decided to host a roundtable event, funded by the Economic and Social Research Council, in November 2018. The event brought together representatives from across academia, policy and practice to discuss the issue of non-resident parents.

Three main policy recommendations that emerged from the discussion were that:

  • all parents who share care should be able to rent a one-bedroom self-contained property
  • parents who share care should be exempted from the Shared Accommodation Rate of Local Housing Allowance (which restricts those under 35 to a room in a shared house)
  • Discretionary Housing Payments should be prioritised for non-resident parents who are struggling to afford the rent on a one-bedroom home.

You can view a report from the roundtable event here.

Suggested practical solutions from the roundtable included encouraging housing providers to run appropriate shared housing for non-resident fathers (the group most affected by this issue), and improving the emotional support and guidance available to parents at the point of separation.

The roundtable event highlighted that more needs to be done to draw attention to non-resident parents as a distinct group, and to raise awareness of their needs.

There was a clear conclusion from the event that more research into the impact of continued shared care on children would be valuable in pushing this agenda forward.

To achieve this, the Centre for Housing and Planning Research is very interested in carrying out a larger-scale piece of research into this topic and will be seeking funding and collaborations to take this forward.

If you would like to be involved please contact Kathryn Muir – kam85@cam.ac.uk

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