Hotels aren’t homes. That shouldn’t really need saying to be honest. We all know that they aren’t. A home might not be the stereotypical two up, two down, white picket fence and smoke curling from the chimney child’s drawing, but it definitely isn’t a room in hotel.
We know the argument that “at least they have somewhere to stay”, but is that really the benchmark we want to set for children? “At least they aren’t on the street”. Child trafficking survivors have often already faced a life of being shut away, denied the care and support all children deserve, denied their childhood. Shutting them away in hotels, particularly without support from appropriately trained adults in care services, risks exacerbating the trauma they have already been through.
Some local authorities are doing their best with limited resources. Some aren’t doing anything though, and others, if we are being honest, are doing the bare minimum under the apparent assumption of “out of sight, out of mind”. Children don’t become invisible just because they aren’t being seen though. Their needs don’t suddenly disappear.
There are reams of legal definitions and legislation, both internationally and domestic, which set out the protections to which children are guaranteed. None of these make a distinction based on where a child has come from, how they entered the country, what has happened to them previously etc. They recognise that all children need to be treated equally, as children. Do we really need to set out the legal case though? Surely our own compassion and common sense tells us that children need a safe environment to grow and develop in. That they need hope and happiness, and that that comes from knowing they are supported and cared for.
For the last year and a half millions of people have been stuck at home, unable to see friends and family. We have seen the impact which this has had on children highlighted time and time again, and the outrage which that impact has caused. Why should that be any different for children separated from everyone they love? Children who have already faced more than most of us could ever imagine.
“Neglect” is a strong word which immediately provokes reactions. What is happening to children placed into hotels is however just that. Neglect! There really isn’t another word for it. They are being denied the care which they need. Lack of suitable clothing, denied access to the outside world, being separated from friends, these are not things which can be accepted for any child. The arguments that this is a “fast paced” situation fail when you realise that this is a situation that has been going on for months.
The Home Office has claimed that about 300 children have passed through what is known as the National Transfer Scheme since the end of July. For those who don’t know, this is the scheme which at its heart is meant to see unaccompanied children transferred to local authorities, because it’s local authorities not the Home Office who should be caring for them. Most of them will have been placed in hotels though. It’s not just the figures of “70 children” you might hear in the press. That’s 70 children “at the moment”. This is about ensuring that those 70, the next 70 and the next after that, aren’t placed in hotels.
We live in a world where any time you open the news there is something about “asylum seekers”, “refugees”, “migrants” etc. That’s just the nature of things. It’s a political point, and at times it can be a complicated one. In life there are rarely simple answers to anything, and most things fall into a grey area. Protecting children isn’t one of them. Ensuring children are safe isn’t one of them. Ensuring that they have a place to call “home” isn’t one of them. Before anything else, before any other label, children are children, and hotels aren’t homes. We are calling on local authorities and the government to ensure that all children currently in hotels are moved to safe and supportive environments, with trained and appropriate adults within Children’s social care to support and care for them, and that in future hotels are never again seen as an option; temporary or otherwise.