Big Issue Changemaker Ross Kemp returns with new homelessness documentary

The Living With series sets its sights on vulnerable families who are moved sometimes hundreds of miles from where they live

“Councils are playing checkers with people’s lives”, says Ross Kemp, in his new ITV documentary revealing how vulnerable families are moved outside of their boroughs just to keep a roof over their heads.

Kemp was named a Big Issue Changemaker for 2020 after his award-winning Living With series brought mainstream attention to the problem of counting rough sleepers last year.

Tonight he turns his attentions to homelessness once more, revealing the stories of some of the 24,000 people left with little choice but to move sometimes hundreds of miles from where they live because the housing crisis means that their local authority has no place to offer them.

Kemp’s investigation found that northern cities such as Bradford have received at least 290 households from 31 different boroughs over the last two years. The influx of families from London, Kent and Essex is putting pressure on services and schools to meet demand.

And 60 councils have failed to inform other local authorities that they are housing people in their area, despite a legal duty do so. The widespread practice has seen 28,000 households moved out of their boroughs every year, moving a total distance of more than 350,000 miles in the last two years.

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The programme, which was filmed before and during the Covid-19 lockdown, tells the stories of Jade and William – two neighbours who live in a former insurance office block on an industrial estate in Wimbledon despite hailing from Tower Hamlets on the other side of London.

Because benefits do not cover the cost of private rented properties, the local authority admitted that: “Housing in Tower Hamlets can be impossible due to rising rents”. But that means that William is forced to live away from his family and friends and sometimes walks up to eight hours to visit them.

From there Kemp’s investigation moves to Bradford where he meets residents of a housing block who have almost entirely been moved from the south of England with few having the financial means to travel back where they came from. Kemp also comes across a similar situation at a foodbank where one man, Nick from Chatham, told him that Medway Council had said “if he didn’t move to Bradford they would take his five children off him and put them in care”.

Kemp said: “We are living in the middle of a housing crisis, with a shortfall of some four million homes. Local authorities are having to look outside their boroughs to find accommodation. Twenty-four thousand people young and old have had little choice but to move in some cases hundreds of miles away from friends, families, schools and jobs just to keep a roof above their heads.”

Ross Kemp: Living With ‘Forced Out’ Families is on ITV on Thursday 2 July at 7.30pm