A safe and stable home environment is essential for any family.
But for many, securing a warm, safe place to live is becoming more difficult.
Low-income families are increasingly facing significant hardship due to cuts in benefits and inadequate access to well-paid, permanent work. This, coupled with the lack of social housing and the difficulties in finding decent, privately rented homes, means that many children end up on the brink of homelessness.
This is a very real problem in Barnsley. Over the last few months, my office has dealt with an increasing number of cases of families who have been affected by the introduction of the benefit cap. Many can no longer afford their privately rented properties, but are struggling to find cheaper alternatives, as the demand for social housing far out-strips supply. Berneslai Homes have told me that an average of 27 people apply for every property they advertise - with desirable homes often chased by up to 100 families.
Even if they can afford to rent privately, I receive many complaints from constituents about irresponsible landlords, either failing to take action against tenants who subject their neighbours to persistent anti-social behaviour, or failing to ensure their properties are maintained at an acceptable standard.
Housing: what can be done?
In order to effectively tackle child poverty, housing must be a priority. There needs to be greater work done to reduce the insecurity associated with private renting, and to drive up standards in both private rented and social housing.
On a local level, I have raised the need to better regulate the private rented sector with Barnsley Metropolitan Borough Council (BMBC). I am pleased that the Council are introducing a scheme to require and encourage private landlords to improve the management, amenity and safety standards of their properties and to tackle anti-social behaviour and other related problems.
On a national level, I will be opposing the government’s proposals to extend the Right to Buy scheme to include the housing association sector. At a time when demand for social housing is so clearly outstripping supply, we should be bolstering the social housing sector, not selling it off.