Support the Focus E15 Mothers!

On Saturday 5 October, the Focus E15 Mothers campaign held a lively rally on the streets of Stratford, East London. Mums, children and supporters made speeches, petitioned and publicised the campaign, encouraging local people to attend a public meeting this Saturday (see details below).

The Focus E15 Mothers are a group of young mothers and mothers-to-be facing eviction from their homes at the FocusE15 centre, a hostel for young people in Stratford that includes a mother and baby unit.

In September, East Thames housing association, which runs Focus E15, told the mothers that ‘Supporting People’ funding for the mother and baby unit has run out. This means that the women have to move – and there is no local accommodation in Newham: the only options on offer are distant towns like Hastings. This is unacceptable because it means moving their children away from their family, friends and support networks. But if they refuse any offer of accommodation wherever it is in the country, they will be deemed to be intentionally homeless, and Newham will wash its hands of any responsibility for them.

At the Stratford rally many locals stopped and showed their support. There is anger at the social cleansing of London, fuelled by the overall benefit cap and cuts to services like Focus E15.

Before the rally, five of the women attended the local councillor’s surgery at St John's Church in Stratford. Terry Paul, a Labour councillor, gave an hour of his morning to hear the story of the young mums. He admitted that he knew nothing of this situation and said he would look into it in detail and meet the young mothers again. However, he was very keen that the Labour-run Newham council shouldn't be seen as responsible for the evictions or the young families being moved out of the borough. The women were vociferous in their disagreement - Newham Council had to take the responsibility: it was the council that has removed funding and it was the council that was going to ship them out of the borough.

'Our hands are tied' said Terry Paul, referring to the benefit cap and the cuts imposed by central government. Our reply is that he should take a stand and fight for the rights of the residents. Later on that day, he passed by our rally and demanded we remove a placard which said that Newham Council were evicting the womean. He said this was false as the housing association was evicting them. The women quite rightly insisted that it was entirely accurate as the council were no longer funding the unit. They kept the placard up and the frustrated councillor left.

Newham Council may not fund the mother and baby unit at Focus E15 but why should the mothers pay for the financial disaster it has incurred by spending £111 million on new offices What sort of Olympic Legacy is this?!

A public meeting will be held this Saturday, 12 October, to make links with others suffering in the area and to keep building the campaign to save these young mothers from eviction. As we shouted on Saturday’s rally, 'Don't make our babies homeless! Keep us in London!'

Focus E15 Mothers facebook group:

Public meeting, Sat 12 Oct, 2pm
Ithaca House, 27 Romford Road, Stratford, E15 4LJ