This week, North East London Migrant Action (NEMLA) will be taking action against Haringey council, who are denying hundreds of immigrant families basic housing support under Section 17 of the Children Act 1989. Section 17 is the lowest band of housing that it is incumbent on councils to provide. The act is ostensibly designed to prevent children from sleeping on the street.

Social Cleansing

A recent study by Inside Housing found that a third of councils are responsible for separating children from their families.The report suggests that Section 17 is being used by councils as a mechanism for social cleansing in some boroughs.

Of the 670 families whose locations were declared, a lot of councils didn't have the information almost half (45%) were housed outside their home boroughs.

Bexley council was found to be sending families as far north as Greater Manchester: a clear failure of the system. Moreover, Brent council was found to be sending families to either the West Midlands or Yorkshire. Evidently, this failure of the system appears to be an attempt by councils to cleanse London of poor migrant families.

Furthermore, even if families are able to get housing, the accommodation provided by councils is abject. Given the substandard accommodation provided, predominately in the poorest areas in the UK, such actions by councils could be considered a part of the government's widespread programme of austerity.

However, this was found not to be the case.

The private landlords

Private landlords are earning huge profits from Section 17 of the housing act. The average cost of Section 17 housing is an astonishing £45 a night, which translates to £1,350 a month. In Lewisham, the council is paying on average £80 a night, which translates to £28,000 a year.

The average cost of housing in London is between £600 and £800 a month.

NEMLA's action is a direct response to the inadequacy of housing provided by Section 17.Those unfortunate enough to be living in Section 17 are being punished for not understanding council policy on housing.