A Merseyside mum and her three young children were left homeless after fleeing from her abusive partner.

Joanne, whose name has been changed to conceal her identity, lost her property and livelihood after having to suddenly and unexpectedly leave the family home.

It meant she, her twin eight-year-old daughters and 14-year-old son were left with very few belongings, and sought help from Liverpool’s Belvidere Family Centre, which provides temporary accommodation for families in the region.

Joanne’s story has been told after the reality of children and their families becoming homeless on Merseyside was revealed.

New figures from the Office of National Statistics (ONS) have shown this week how the number of children left without accommodation has dramatically risen more than twofold in four years – rising from 66 across the Liverpool City Region in 2014 to 156 in 2018.

They cover Liverpool, Knowsley, Sefton, Wirral, St Helens and Halton, and reveal the numbers of children in accommodation arranged by the local authority over the last five years.

A spokeswoman for the Belvidere centre, which provides temporary accommodation for families referred by the council, said Joanne and her family were shaken by the events of the previous days – and a sudden move from a comfortable home.

They were placed at the centre by Liverpool City Council’s Housing Options Team, and that was then followed by a full assessment of their support needs, before being moved into one of the centre’s 16 flats.

There, they began working with a caseworker to put together a way forward and finding a home for the family.

With the children now some distance from their schools, the family was helped by the centre with taxis and travel passes, as well as replacement school uniforms – which had been left behind when they fled.

Joanne and her children were given the help of support services and counsellors, including her son being helped to come to terms with the breakdown of his parents’ relationship, allowing him to work through his feelings and talk about some of the things he had seen.

All three children used the centre’s homework club, as well as art and crafts and music activities also laid on.

After six weeks of bidding, the family were offered a new house, being helped by the centre with arranging to view and sign for it, and to apply for a grant for furniture and white goods – also being helped to manage the move, get to know the area and settle in.

Following Joanne’s story being told, Birkenhead MP Frank Field said the UK was in “desperate” need of more secure, stable tenancies, adding that the ONS figures were just the start of the problem.


He said: “As if these figures aren’t appalling enough – showing a rising number of homeless children being put up in temporary accommodation – they barely even scratch the surface of child homelessness in Merseyside.

“How many children are sleeping on a different sofa or in a different spare room from week to week, for example, because their family has nowhere to live?

“Clearly there are some deep-seated sources of injustice in the housing market, as well as the benefits system, which are pushing a growing number of families to the brink of destitution.

“We desperately need more secure, stable tenancies, as well as an increase in the supply of affordable housing and a reversal of the benefits freeze, to help eliminate these sources of injustice.”

Here are the figures in full:

Wirral Globe:

Polly Neate, chief executive of homeless charity Shelter, claimed Liverpool was “sorely lacking” in temporary accommodation.

She said: “No child should have to grow up without a safe place to call home, but this is too often the tragic outcome as more parents are being plunged into crisis by expensive private rents and severe welfare cuts. A situation made far worse by the desperate lack of social homes in this country.

“Liverpool is sorely lacking appropriate temporary accommodation. When there are no rooms in the one family centre available, families can be moved every few days around B&Bs or hotels.

The impact ‘cannot be overstated’

“These are often several miles apart and away from families and communities, as well as schools and doctors. The impact this has on children’s health, education and stability cannot be overstated.”

She said the government must “act now” to stop “more children from carrying the scars of homelessness into adulthood”, adding that the charity’s recent cross-party commission called for 3.1m more social homes over the next 20 years.

Steve Rotheram, Metro Mayor of the Liverpool City Region, described the situation as a “national disgrace and personal tragedy for the individuals involved” that there are any homeless children in the UK.

He explained: “That we should see so many living in those circumstances in our city region is a damning indictment of years of austerity and the unpicking of the social safety net that we used to rely on.

“We know that important factors behind the rise in homelessness include the slashing of public services and the roll out of Universal Credit.

“Whilst these are national issues, here in the city region we are pioneering a new approach to homelessness through our Housing First initiative and are calling for local control of Job Centre Plus, which would enable us to end the sanctions-based approach.”

A spokeswoman for Whitechapel, the leading homeless and housing charity for the Liverpool region, said homelessness can happen to “anyone at any time”, adding: “There are a range of reasons why families become homeless, including disasters such as fire or flood, people experiencing complex issues such as mental health problems or addiction issues, relationship breakdown and people fleeing violence.

“One of the most common issues we see is debt. Ideally we would want to move people directly into alternative permanent accommodation but lack of availability of the right type of accommodation means this isn’t always possible and so temporary accommodation is provided.”

The service manages Belvidere Family Centre providing “very high quality” temporary accommodation for families referred by the council.

She added: “During and after their stay we provide support to access permanent accommodation as soon as possible, ensure children’s education continues, address issues which have led to homelessness, for example debt management, access to treatment and support.

“The average stay for a family at Belvidere is 10 weeks and we aim to give people the space and dignity they deserve during one of the most difficult times of their lives.”

A Liverpool City Council spokesman said the authority was committed to helping anyone facing homelessness, and that there had been a 53% decrease in the numbers of rough sleepers.

He added: “Our focus is working to prevent individuals and families from becoming homeless in the first place.

“Since the introduction of the Homeless Reduction Act in 2017, the city council has seen an 18% increase in the number of people and families presenting as homeless. Last year the city council’s Housing Options Services were approached by approximately 6,000 households who were at risk of becoming homeless or in housing need.

“We were able to prevent homelessness in the vast majority of these cases by giving advice, support or help to move to more suitable accommodation in a planned way.”

But he said due to a range of “complex reasons” like domestic abuse, the council cannot always prevent homelessness, which will “inevitably” involve families in children.

He added: “The majority of this is high quality, purpose built for families with good facilities for children. Homeless families are treated as the highest possible priority by the council and every effort is made to get families permanently re-housed as quickly as possible into affordable, settled accommodation.”