Changes to Government housing policy and social services' meddling present new barriers to staying contact
When parents separate, there is rarely the equity to provide both with homes of a sufficient size for the children. If they are in social housing, one must move out, and try to find accommodation which can also house their children when they stay.
From January 2012, if you're under 35, not the 'primary carer', unemployed or on a low income, the Government may pull the rug (bed and bedroom) from under your children's feet. At the same time, the Government's talking of making it easier for employers to sack staff.
From 1st April 2011, the rates for Local Housing Allowance were reduced across the country making the situation even harder.
I've been contacted by a local father who has received notification from the council that his housing allowance will be cut from £350 a month to £210. The father was granted staying contact on the basis he could provide two bedroom accommodation so his child had their own bedroom. When receiving the larger allowance, he had been able to top up the allowance from his modest benefits.
He might get this condition relaxed (the number of bedrooms... not the cut in housing benefit), but life is made more complex as social services have said that if he shares a property, all other adults in the property must be CRB checked before the child can stay with him.
From January 2012, single people under the age of 35 will no longer receive housing benefit based on one bedroom, self contained accommodation. They will be expected to house share. How many children will then only see one parent for outings, and lose a critical aspect of their family life?
Would it be acceptable for children to be removed from a mother because a council were unable to house them?
At Christmas, it's part of a Dad's greatest role to sneak into the bedroom (on behalf of Santa of course) and leave presents at the bottom of the bed. Now it seems this will only happen if you can cram two beds into the one room, and once social services have checked that all other adults in the property aren't child molesters.
A father may have shared residence. He may have the children living with him 3 nights in 7. It seems he is to get no help with housing. He gets no child benefit. No working family tax credit. He pays 4 nights CSA despite also covering the costs for the additional 3 nights.
Broken Britain just crumbled a little bit more. It seems the Government is going to make it even harder to be a committed and loving parent, and what happened to the commitment to shared parenting? It needs more than words.