A community project providing help to parents and children under five at risk of homelessness
Experiences between birth and turning five are crucial in a child’s development, yet for many babies in temporary accommodation, even crawling is a privilege. Mothers attending The Magpie Project in Newham recall stories of rodent droppings on floors and in food, sharing bathrooms with five other families and four-hour queues to use a cooker – factors making teaching to walk, potty training and providing a nutritional diet impossible.
Jane Williams, a governor at a local children’s centre, set up the playgroup with the aim of reducing the long-term impact to children experiencing these conditions. As well as being able to run about and take part in a variety of activities, the kids get a healthy lunch and snack. It’s also a life line for their mothers, who can relax with a cup of tea, talk to others in the same situation and seek on-site advice about housing, immigration and jobs.
“Mums say they feel heard and valued, and love the family feel,” says Jane.
In one year the project has seen 184 mums and around 210 pre-schoolers, has raised more than £10,000 in the community and has given out hundreds of baby items. Along with 50 volunteers ranging from artists to family support workers, the charity has partnered with local businesses and organisations.
Our belief that these are ‘all our children’ and that we must be the village it takes to raise a child has struck a chord; the generosity and kindness of East Londoners has been overwhelming.
There are at least 26,152 under-fives living in temporary accommodation in England, and almost 2,000 in Newham. As The Magpie Project continues developing its support network and programmes, it wants to become a test-bed for new co-produced services: a centre for good practice where mums can teach public services how best to support them.