News Walthamstow

Disabled single mother left homeless after rejecting council offer to move to Stoke-on-Trent

Zara and her four-year-old child were saved from the spectre of sleeping rough when their neighbours clubbed together to pay for a few nights in a local hotel, reports Marco Marcelline

Credit: Mike Marchetti / baseimage via Canva

A disabled single mother says she and her four-year-old child were told by Waltham Forest Council to move to either Stoke-on-Trent or Burnley after they were evicted from a council-managed property.

In March, Zara* was staying in a Walthamstow flat when council officers, citing her Indefinite Leave to Remain status, told her she was no longer entitled to live there.

The following month, Waltham Forest Housing declared they had “discharged their responsibility” to house her because she had turned down temporary accommodation in Harlow in September 2023. 

Then, on 28th May, upon returning to the flat after visiting her critically-ill parent abroad, Zara found the locks had been changed.

The mother-of-one, who suffers from diabetes and needs a walking stick due to her reduced mobility, says the move left her “stunned”.

Speaking to the Echo, Zara says she has built strong friendships with neighbours who provide crucial daily support including helping with shopping, taking her child to nursery and with household and personal care tasks on days when her symptoms are worse.

She says how she was “horrified” to learn that the council was unable to do anything to help her and her child on the night of her eviction, prompting neighbours to step in and pay for a bed and breakfast hotel.

Zara said: “I was very shocked when my social worker told me that the only place I could get sent to would be in Stoke-on-Trent or Burnley. [The council] knew… that I rely on help from local friends for things like shopping or household tasks or taking [my child] to nursery if and when my leg or diabetes mean I cannot do those things for myself or my child.”

She says the shock then turned into anger when her social worker said that her child could be “taken away” from her if she cannot be looked after.

“I said I did not want to give away my child. I had never said that I did not want to look after and care for them. I very much want to do that,” she told the Echo, adding: “It is wrong [that] Children’s Services pressurises me and tries to leave me with no choice but to give up my child.”

A council spokesperson said the authority could not comment on individual cases due to “safeguarding measures” but added that it has a “statutory duty to ensure every child has a safe place to live”. 

Suddenly made homeless, Zara and her daughter were saved from the spectre of sleeping rough when their neighbours clubbed together to pay for a few nights in a local hotel. 

One of those neighbours told the Echo that Zara’s situation was “unsustainable”. 

Slamming the council in a letter, she said: “I understand fully the pressures that councils are under, and I am aware that there is insufficient social housing for all those who need it. However, this is not what Zara is asking for, only that she is given some support to help her get a foothold in private renting.”

She added: “Zara has done everything in her power to engage with social services and housing to find a solution, and has been met with obstruction and a total lack of humanity at every turn. There are good reasons why being forced to move many miles away from her support network would be disastrous for her, but these have been dismissed out of hand.”

This story is published by Waltham Forest Echo, Waltham Forest's free monthly newspaper and free news website. We are a not-for-profit publication, published by a small social enterprise. We have no rich backers and rely on the support of our readers. Donate or become a supporter.

Zara and her child are currently staying in a bed and breakfast. Main image credit: lovegulli via Canva

The Echo understands that in the past 24 hours the council has offered to pay for Zara and her child’s B&B accommodation for at least one week. 

A council spokesperson said it “works hard” to find housing for people in need, but that demand means that it must “look further afield for suitable properties”. 

The authority said: “Here in Waltham Forest, we have close to 10,000 people on our housing waiting list, over 1,000 households in temporary accommodation and families turning to us for housing has increased 50% in the past twelve months.

 “When considering where to place homeless households the private rented sector accommodation offered must be affordable within their household budget and we, therefore, take into account their income, employment, education or caring responsibilities, accessibility of essential medical facilities and support, and accessibility of local amenities, services and transport.”

Peter O’Kane, an activist from East London Unite Community, criticised the council’s offers of housing in Stoke-on-Trent and Burnley, saying: “The family circumstances and options need to be properly explored before a council can reasonably suggest there are no local affordable private rented places for a given family. 

“The council should show it has explored all these options and allowed applicants time to pursue them, before it insists on moving people away from their local community and support networks if they want to stay.”

He added that the council could “easily” help her secure a local private rented place, which would not be “that expensive” if they use government provided funding to do it.

He said: “Waltham Forest could have given targeted financial support to enable Zara to secure private rented housing in her area. That would cost £5,000 at maximum. WFC has received £800,000 funding from government specifically ring-fenced for such help in 2024/25. At no stage… [did the council] offer such help.”

The Echo asked the council if it had looked into using the government funded support to help Zara but we did not receive a response.

In March 2023, the council lost a legal battle against Nadia Zaman who was also told to move to Stoke-on-Trent. The mother-of-three and lifelong Waltham Forest resident had been fighting eviction from her temporary accommodation since 2021, and had repeatedly asked the council to remain close to her children’s schools, her mother and wider support network.

In a Court of Appeal judgement last spring, judges ruled that Waltham Forest lacked proof that it had tried to house her closer to London.

This week, the campaign group Housing Action Southwark and Lambeth (HASL) revealed that 319 London households last year accepted offers of a private tenancy outside the capital. Waltham Forest was found to have moved 67 households out of the capital, more than any other London council.

*Names have been changed to protect anonymity

No news is bad news 

Independent news outlets like ours – reporting for the community without rich backers – are under threat of closure, turning British towns into news deserts. 

The audiences they serve know less, understand less, and can do less. 

If our coverage has helped you understand our community a little bit better, please consider supporting us with a monthly, yearly or one-off donation. 

Choose the news. Don’t lose the news.

Monthly direct debit 

Annual direct debit

£5 per month supporters get a digital copy of each month’s paper before anyone else, £10 per month supporters get a digital copy of each month’s paper before anyone else and a print copy posted to them each month.  £50 annual supporters get a digital copy of each month's paper before anyone else.

Donate now with Pay Pal

More information on supporting us monthly or annually 

More Information about donations