Bromley election candidates claim homeless families are being sent to live in West Midlands

Candidates for the Bromley and Biggin Hill seat shown alongside Bromley Experts by Experience staff, Bromley, London, UK
-Credit: (Image: Joe Coughlan)

Candidates for a South London constituency have labelled the country’s services as being at 'breaking point', claiming some homeless Bromley families are being placed as far as the West Midlands. The candidates vying for the Bromley and Biggin Hill seat were quizzed by residents on June 25 at a hustings for the General Election, focused on disability services.

The event was hosted at Bromley United Reformed Church by Bromley Experts by Experience, a charity aimed at supporting people living with disabilities. The Lib Dems were represented by Julie Ireland, currently a councillor for the Bromley Town ward for Bromley Council, while Oana Olaru-Holmes attended as the Labour candidate, who is currently representing Downham for Lewisham Council.

Reform UK’s Alan Cook and Ruth Fabricant of the Green Party were also in attendance. Nicole Burgess, deputy CEO of Bromley Experts by Experience and host of the event, said that several Conservative Party candidates, including Bromley and Biggin Hill contender Peter Fortune, were approached by the charity for the hustings but all declined the offer to attend. She added that a set of questions had been sent to the candidates but no responses had been received.

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Candidates for the Bromley and Biggin Hill seat, Bromley, London, UK
Candidates for the Bromley and Biggin Hill seat (left to right): Alan Cook (Reform UK), Julie Ireland (Lib Dems), Oana Olaru-Holmes (Labour), Ruth Fabricant (Green Party) -Credit:Joe Coughlan

Candidates were grilled on several topics including NHS waiting lists and Personal Independence Payments. A local resident asked how candidates would improve the current systems in place to tackle homelessness. Cllr Ireland said she noted the importance of local charities such as Bromley Homeless in supporting vulnerable individuals and felt the solution was to create the 'right homes' for Bromley people in the 'right location'.

She said: "We have 1,600 families on the [local authority’s] waiting list. I have got several pieces of casework of parents and children in Travelodge hotels. Parents with children who have been moved to the West Midlands."

'Homeless individuals being sent hours away from Bromley'

Ms Fabricant said she was also aware of homeless individuals being sent hours away from Bromley borough for housing and claimed the Green Party planned to provide 150,000 new social homes a year. Cllr Olaru-Holmes said Labour was keen on challenging landlords in the current housing climate and felt not enough family or single bedroom homes were being built under the present government.

Mr Cook said a massive reform was needed on social care to support those with mental health issues at risk of homelessness, claiming the NHS had seen 25 years of 'managed decline' under successive Tory and Labour governments. However, he felt that immigration was the key barrier to the potential number of homes available.

The Reform UK candidate said at the hustings: "Most housing policy at the moment is pointless when we have such huge numbers of people wanting to come live here. We just can’t build enough houses until we stop mass immigration… The numbers are just too great, every single service is at breaking point."

Cllr Ireland addressed Reform UK’s stance on immigration affecting a variety of services and said more emphasis should instead be placed on rethinking the care service, which is currently 'falling apart'. When asked about the decline in the quality of care for disabled individuals, the Lib Dem candidate said care workers were ‘chronically underpaid’ and deserved more respect, recalling a 94-year-old she knew who had previously lost her care workers.

Cllr Ireland said: "She has actually signed a DNR [Do Not Resuscitate order] that she has got plastered to her front door because she’s so scared that she will have to go into a care home to be looked after. She’s scared of the bad service and bad care she is likely to get."

Cllr Olaru-Holmes said better coordination was needed between care services and the NHS. She said the Labour Party wanted to see increased pay and support for care staff and she would ensure residents would easily be able to raise similar issues to her if she was elected. Ms Fabricant said the Green Party wanted to make sure residents would not have to pay for care and the party’s ambitious plans would be funded by taxes on 'those with the broadest shoulders'.

Voters will decide on who they wish to represent their constituency on July 4. The deadline for proxy vote applications and Voter Authority Certificates is 5pm on June 26.

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