Play deprivation rife in temporary accommodation


More than 82,000 children living in temporary accommodation in London risk losing their ability to play – blocking their development and storing up “catastrophic” problems for them in later life, leading experts have told the i newspaper.

Research by University College London has explored the challenges that families living in temporary accommodation face, particularly in regards to ensuring time, resources and space for their children to play. It found that children living in temporary, local authority housing are being prevented from playing because many live in cramped conditions, with strict visitor policies that don’t allow friends over. As a result, tens of thousands of children are seeing their physical and psychological development suffer, with charities reporting cases of “toddlers that haven’t learnt to walk yet because their living space is too small to naturally learn to walk”.

England’s long-running housing crisis has recently accelerated into a new and damaging phase, compounded by rising costs of living. Social safety nets are straining to match the growing need for affordable, decent accommodation. The consequences of this crisis risk hampering the development of an entire generation. At present,
there are over 130,000 children living in English temporary housing – most of them in London.

The article in i features the plight of one single mother, living in temporary accommodation with her seven-month-old child, said: “There’s no room: I don’t have my own bedroom and neither does she. I think it will affect her development because she’s at the age now where she wants to get up, stand up, and crawl around and there’s no space for her to do that. And it will only get worse as she gets older. She hasn’t crawled yet, but my worry is when she does crawl, how do I baby-proof this?”

People living in temporary, or emergency, accommodation often suffer from depression and anxiety, as well as feelings of guilt, isolation, unhappiness and a loss of “agency” – control over their actions and their consequences – all of which make play even harder.

“The crisis in temporary housing means most children have no space to play . This is a ticking time bomb that can have a direct impact on a child’s social interaction, physical development and mental health,” Professor Monica Lakhanpaul, of UCL, told i.

“From the data gathered, it is clear that there is yet immense work to be done to tackle the problem of play in temporary accommodation,” added UCL researcher Lorenzo Dall’Omo.

He wants to see existing spaces in temporary housing made more suitable for play, making local play facilities more accessible to children and putting play at the core of the way the accommodation is managed.

For more on this article click here to go to the i website

Or for the report from the Reach Alliance, which  responsible for producing the research click below.

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