More than 500 Southend households overcrowded amid coronavirus crisis

Hundreds of families in Southend could be more vulnerable to coronavirus because they are living in overcrowded accommodation, it has been revealed.

Government data shows that 538 households on the council’s housing waitlist are living in overcrowded, unsanitary or unsatisfactory conditions.

With COVID-19 cases spreading across the UK, the Government is advising people to practise social distancing, while those with symptoms have been told to isolate themselves indoors.

But the think-tank, the Resolution Foundation, said people living in these conditions will struggle to follow the guidance and it has called on the government to consider the impact on such groups when issuing health advice.

Lindsay Judge, principal research and policy analyst at the Resolution Foundation, said self-isolation for families in overcrowded accommodation “is likely to prove especially difficult”.

She said: “Finding and providing adequate housing for all should be a long-term priority for the Government.

“For now, it’s essential policymakers consider the impact on all groups when issuing health advice and ensure everyone is supported to protect themselves as best as possible.”

Council leader Ian Gilbert, who oversees housing in Southend, said: “This is a very difficult situation and part of the reason we chose not to completely shut the parks and the beaches is because we are aware that there are people living in cramped conditions with no access to outdoor space.

“But there is a fine balance here between stopping the spread of the infection and living relatively healthy lifestyles otherwise.”

He added that it continues to be vital that people observe advice on social distancing, even when not being out to exercise.

Government figures also show there were 165 households living in temporary hostels and B&Bs in Southend at the end of September – 132 of them families with children.

Housing charity Shelter says households in these kinds of temporary accommodation have to share kitchen and bathroom facilities with strangers, often sleep in a single room, and may even share a bed.

A spokesman for the Ministry of Housing said: “Public safety and protecting the most vulnerable people in society from coronavirus is this government’s top priority.

“We are working closely with councils and charities to ensure families have the support they need throughout this period.”


Steve Shaw

Local Democracy Reporter