Mum’s fears for autistic son amid temporary housing nightmare

Family forced to move five times in six years against medical advice, reports Simon Allin, Local Democracy Reporter

There are currently 5,700 households on the waiting for council housing in Enfield
There are currently 5,700 households on the waiting list for council housing in Enfield

The mum of a boy with special needs says she has been left “stressed” and “anxiety ridden” after Enfield Council repeatedly failed to find her a suitable home.

Samira Awil, whose six-year-old son has autism spectrum disorder and does not cope well with change, said she felt “neglected” after having to move five times during the past six years, with another relocation now imminent.

The mother-of-three said she felt discriminated against because she believes the council doesn’t understand autism and her case was not given enough medical priority. She said she was repeatedly put into unsuitable accommodation against a medical recommendation she received when she applied for housing.

Samira told the Local Democracy Reporting Service: “I feel like we have kind of been neglected and my son has been neglected. We have been pushed from pillar to post.

“I don’t think Enfield Council really understands autism and any type of invisible disability and how much it affects people.”

Samira said that after becoming homeless six years ago she moved to temporary accommodation in Wood Green, Haringey, which she described as “dangerous and cramped”. At the age of two, her son was diagnosed with autism.

Samira said the council gave her a medical recommendation that she needed a ground-floor property after she filled out a medical form containing evidence from schools, a psychologist and medical professionals. 

After being moved away from Wood Green, she lived in a ground floor, one-bedroom flat but moved out in 2020 because it was not big enough and had an open-plan kitchen, which was unsuitable for her son who has a nut allergy.

Samira said she and her family were placed at the top of the transfer list and moved to a three-bedroom property. But she later had to move to a hotel for several days because of a leaking pipe at the home.

She said her latest property, in Freezywater, is unsuitable because it is a first-floor flat with no restrictors on the windows to keep her son safe. Despite complaining to the council, she had to wait six months for the restrictors to be fitted. Samira was also not given a disabled parking permit and had to wait for a broken window to be fixed.

Samira said: “I have been stressed and anxiety-ridden. I am constantly having to watch him and not being able to sleep at night, worried that he is going to climb out of the window.”

Samira, who is considering legal action over the way she has been treated by the local authority, said the constant moving had been “extremely hard” on her son, who “has no way of communicating and has extremely rigid behaviours”.

She added: “The social workers, educational psychologists and school have all tried to speak with the council about how detrimental moving is for him, that his mental health and wellbeing is affected by the constant moves and that the private sector will not help.”

A council spokesperson said: “Enfield Council is committed to using all its resources and creativity to make the experience of homelessness rare, brief and non-recurring. We are determined to enable everyone to access a stable, secure and decent home. There are approximately 5,700 households on the housing register waiting for social housing and each year we let around 400 homes, meaning that for most residents, privately rented accommodation is the best available option.

“Enfield Council introduced a new allocation policy in December 2020 to recognise this reality and to encourage and reward residents to access and sustain privately rented housing rather than living in long-term temporary accommodation. Ms Awil has been awarded 200 points on the waiting list because she is owed the main duty and is housed in temporary accommodation.

“We will support Ms Awil to move to a suitable privately rented home, which will entitle her to 250 points. Ms Awil will be entitled to 300 points if she sustains her privately rented home for six months, and her points will increase by 10% each year. In the meantime we have offered Ms Awil alternative temporary accommodation to meet her immediate needs. Applicants owed the main homelessness duty are not entitled to medical points.”

This article was corrected to clarify that Samira’s son was diagnosed with autism after the family had moved to the first temporary accommodation property in Wood Green.