Women, health and housing

"If you put a woman who is fleeing something as desperate as domestic violence into temporary housing… imagine that environment and the impact on a child’s life."

Kristine Wellington, former Head of Children, Families and Safeguarding at Hackney CVS, on supporting women’s health and housing in Hackney


Please tell us more about your work with children, women and housing.

As part of our work with children and families we have identified a need to support women on particular issues. Housing is a key factor in determining whether children, especially in their early years, have mental health issues.

Putting children into hostel accommodation, not for short periods of time, but for very long periods of time, can result in those children having lifetime mental health issues and needing specialist mental health intervention in primary school and secondary school.

How does temporary accommodation impact on the mother?

If you put a woman who is fleeing something as desperate as domestic violence into temporary housing, which is not temporary even – we’ve had mothers and their children in hostels for six years – imagine that environment and the impact on their life.

The link between women, health and housing is very important because very often professionals focus on the children, but they don’t focus on the adult’s needs.

We assume a child is in temporary accommodation for around six months. Six years! This has a detrimental impact on a child’s and the mother’s life. When we hear those case studies it makes me feel tearful – people come into Hackney CVS – a woman came in and she was literally pulling her hair out. Organisations like Shelter can help her.

What can Hackney CVS and the voluntary sector do to support women facing these types of situations?

We realise now that a lot of frontline organisations are tying to contain and support mothers with these issues, but what we really need is to combine this with the influence and expertise of national organisations like Shelter.

When we’ve taken families to Shelter, they are able to bypass the blocks that families face and to access housing solutions.

We are having an event to bring together frontline organisations, who don’t always have all the information they need to help, together with Shelter so that we can have quicker pathways for children and their mothers.

We still need to think more about supporting the mother’s mental health or the father’s mental health. But we are starting by addressing women, health and housing because that’s the reality.