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Rebecca Dillon

Too poor to parent?

Commonweal Housing launch new research project looking at housing options for separated parents

Commonweal Housing today launch a new research project to examine the housing situation of separated parents whose children live with them part-time. The research will examine current housing options for low income separated parents and seek to provide an evidence base for a potential future solution.

Currently separated parents become disadvantaged in a housing system that prioritises the needs of parents with custody of children in housing allocations and support. A child’s housing needs are only considered to arise in one home; despite the realistic possibility they will spend substantial time in another.

The research will be carried out by The Cambridge Centre for Housing and Planning Research (CCHPR), a University of Cambridge research Centre led by Professor Michael Oxley. The centre was established in 1990 with the objective of undertaking policy-oriented research on all issues affecting housing and land use and has an international reputation as a leading academic research institution in the fields of housing and planning.

Previous research by the centre suggests non-resident fathers are likely to be single, younger and in the lowest socioeconomic group. Most single people under 35 in the private rented sector are restricted to the shared accommodation rate; their housing benefit is set at a level to cover the rent on a room in a shared house. Almost half of non-resident fathers report that their children stay with them regularly. This highlights a social injustice for children where maintaining a relationship with both parents after separation may be a privilege linked to income.
Funding for the research will come from the Kurt and Magda Stern Foundation, a family charity set up to honour the memory of its patrons with a focus on social justice and equality of opportunity, particular relating to early intervention work to improve outcomes for children and young people.

Before 2012, the shared accommodation rate only applied to those aged 25 or younger. By increasing the rate to include everyone aged up to 35, there is an increasing likelihood that more non-resident parents will be included.

The project will specifically investigate what might constitute a specific shared housing programme that can meet the needs of non-resident parents, and allay any concerns linked to shared housing of the family courts, landlords, or resident parents. The research will report its findings before 2018 ready for consideration by the Commonweal Housing board of trustees and advisory panel.

Chief Executive of Commonweal Housing Ashley Horsey said:

“I’m delighted that Commonweal is committed to working with our partners to investigate the particular injustice that non-resident parents can face in the housing system. It is clear that if we are serious about providing better outcomes for children housing is crucial, but it is also right that we examine further what can be done to improve the housing situation for children split between two homes, which for too long has been an overlooked area of housing and social policy. We’re particularly delighted that this is the first project we have worked on with the Kurt and Magda Stern Foundation and hope it will be the first of many”

Tamsin Hoare, Chair of Trustees, said:

“The Kurt and Magda Stern Foundation is enthusiastic about this project. This research, by way of acknowledging the importance of enabling children to maintain a relationship with both parents, and by inference the effect of not being able to do so, ties in really well with a lot of the other work we are doing this year around early interventions for children and young people to achieve better life outcomes. As a new Foundation were are excited about working with Commonweal and benefitting from their action learning approach and experience in tackling social injustices.”

– See more at: https://www.commonwealhousing.org.uk/news/too-poor-to-parent