'Dispatches and RCM find that 99.7% of midwives have seen mothers who were homeless over the past six months'
Homelessness is rising in the UK, but no-one knows how many women are pregnant and homeless.
Channel 4 Dispatches with the Royal College of Midwives have surveyed midwives from across the UK, who collectively care for over 15,000 women per month.
The ground-breaking survey found that two thirds of those asked say that more pregnant women are facing homelessness than ever before.
Reports from frontline maternity staff suggest that cuts to benefits, changes in the welfare system, and widespread issues with suitable housing in many areas of the UK are disproportionately affecting pregnant women.
Types of homelessness and numbers seen by midwives
- 99.7% of the midwives who responded to the survey reported that they had seen a pregnant woman who was homeless in the past 6 months.
- 96.7% reported that they had seen a pregnant woman whom they believed to be at risk of homelessness in the past 6 months.
- 97% had seen at least one pregnant woman sharing over-crowded or otherwise unsuitable accommodation.
- 99% had seen at least one pregnant woman living in hostels, shelters or temporary accommodation.
- 97% had seen at least one pregnant woman sofa-surfing.
- 81% had seen at least one pregnant woman who was street homeless.
Pregnancy should be an exciting time, but what do you do when you’re expecting a baby and you have no place to call home? Born Homeless brings to light the story of three mums, fighting to keep their families safe and off the street. Sam is pregnant with her first child; her dream is to be a social worker. Sam and her husband were told they would have to leave their rented shared accommodation as it is not suitable for a baby. The eviction date is just days before Sam is due to give birth. They are placed by Lambeth Council in a temporary shared hostel.
On moving day, Sam says, “What makes me emotional with it all is…if it’s gonna affect the baby. That’s what makes me emotional. You just don’t want anything to interfere with the development… I do not want to put the baby in there, I myself don’t even wanna go in there.”
Temi moved to London from Ireland to be closer to her family, and she is expecting a baby in days. She is facing the prospect of bringing her baby home to severely overcrowded and unsuitable accommodation.
Temi said, “To be honest I haven’t really felt the full joy that I’m actually gonna be a mum again you know - I’m excited and all that but I’m just worried with the space… I’m supposed to be resting and it’s just all I can think about is the housing accommodation”. Temi and her children have been living in a single room in a hostel with other homeless mums for more than a year.
95% of the midwives Dispatches surveyed said they believe that homelessness puts the health of pregnant mothers and their unborn babies at risk. And the research supports this, some studies* suggest that stress in pregnancy can adversely affect both the baby's growth and future development.
Clare Livingstone Professional Policy Advisor at The Royal College of Midwives (RCM) said “Everyday midwives and other health professionals working in our NHS are caring for people who are homeless or at risk of being homeless. They are among the most vulnerable in our society and midwives have a unique insight into the problem, visiting all women and babies where they live.
“The RCM’s recent guidance for midwives on the duty to refer pregnant women who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless needs the backing of NHS employers, in enabling staff to undertake training and providing the time for them to appropriately care for women in these circumstances.
“We have all got to do everything we can to tackle the scourge of homelessness. We know that homelessness leads to stress and ill health in pregnancy and that there are potentially adverse effects for the babies of these vulnerable mothers.”
Born Homeless by Channel 4 Dispatches airs Monday 18th November, Channel 4, 8pm
Read RCM’s ‘Duty to Refer – Guidance for Midwives on the Homelessness Reduction Act’ here: https://www.rcm.org.uk/media/3115/duty-to-refer-guidance-for-midwives-on-the-homelessness-reduction-act-a5-16pp_6.pdf
‘RCM joins royal colleges and homeless charities in call for mandatory training to support homeless patients’
Notes to Editors
Any use of information/statistics in this release or additional survey must credit: Born Homeless: Channel 4 Dispatches Monday 18th November, Channel 4, 8pm
Producer/Director Jess Stevenson
Producer/Director Sunnah Khan
Executive Producer Brian Woods
97% had seen at least one pregnant woman sharing over-crowded or otherwise unsuitable accommodation (median 50 clients)
99% had seen at least one pregnant woman living in hostels, shelters or temporary accommodation (median 35 clients)
97% had seen at least one pregnant woman sofa-surfing (median 28 clients)
81% had seen at least one pregnant woman who was street homeless (median 9 clients)
Survey design and analysis by Cambridge University, distributed by the Royal College of Midwives to all members. 301 respondents representing 118 of 121 postcode areas of the UK, caring for over 15,000 pregnant women every month.
The definition of homelessness means not having a home. You are homeless if you have nowhere to stay and are living on the streets, but you can be homeless even if you have a roof over your head.
You count as homeless if you are:
Staying with friends or family.
Staying in a hostel, night shelter or B&B.
Squatting (because you have no legal right to stay).
At risk of violence or abuse in your home.
Living in poor conditions that affect your health.
Living apart from your family because you don't have a place to live together.
*In-utero stress and mode of conception: impact on regulation of imprinted genes, foetal development and future health.
Antenatal determinants of early childhood talking delay and behavioural difficulties
In-utero stress and mode of conception: impact on regulation of imprinted genes, foetal development and future health.
To contact the RCM Media Office call 020 7312 3456, or email [email protected].
The RCM is the only trade union and professional association dedicated to serving midwifery and the whole midwifery team. We provide workplace advice and support, professional and clinical guidance and information, and learning opportunities with our broad range of events, conferences and online resources. For more information visit the RCM website at https://www.rcm.org.uk/.