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Midwives seeing a rise in homeless mothers

MIDWIVES in Britain are reporting increasing numbers of homeless mothers and pregnant women, a shocking new poll has revealed.

The joint survey carried out by the Royal College of Midwives (RCM) and Channel 4’s Dispatches programme found that 99.7 per cent of midwives had seen homeless mothers in the last six months.

The midwives collectively care for 15,000 women every month.

They warned that they are dealing with increasing numbers of pregnant women at risk of homelessness.

The survey says cuts to benefits, changes in the welfare system and widespread shortages of suitable housing in many areas of Britain are disproportionately affecting pregnant women.

The effects include pregnant women “sofa-surfing” or living in over-crowded or unsuitable accommodation, pregnant women living in hostels and pregnant women living on the streets.

The results of the survey were broadcast by Channel 4’s “Born Homeless” Despatches programme last night and included harrowing individual stories.

Among them was Temi, who moved to London from Ireland to be closer to her family.

She is expecting a baby in days and faces the prospect of bringing her baby home to severely overcrowded and unsuitable accommodation.

Temi and her children have been living in a single room in a hostel with other homeless mums for more than a year.

Clare Livingstone, professional policy adviser at RCM, said: “Every day midwives and other health professionals working in our NHS are caring for people who are homeless or at risk of being homeless.

“They are among the most vulnerable in our society and midwives have a unique insight into the problem, visiting all women and babies where they live.

“The RCM’s recent guidance for midwives on the duty to refer pregnant women who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless needs the backing of NHS employers, in enabling staff to undertake training and providing the time for them to appropriately care for women in these circumstances.

“We know that homelessness leads to stress and ill-health in pregnancy and that there are potentially adverse effects for the babies of these vulnerable mothers.”

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