Will Migrant Mothers Have a Place in Ealing’s
new Health & Wellbeing Strategy?

Suchismita Majumdar
Communications & Policy Officer

ESDEG welcomes Ealing Council’s New Health and Wellbeing Strategy which recently got
approved. You can read in detail about this plan in this article in Around Ealing published on the
24th of May, 2023.

We quote a part of that article which talks about the building blocks of health – “While diet,
exercise, and a healthy lifestyle are important factors to living a happy and healthy life, the
strategy focuses on the wider elements that can impact health. These ‘building blocks of health
and wellbeing’ include factors such as: housing quality and security, green spaces and the
environment, availability of transport, good jobs, financial support, accessibility of services,
support from family and friends, and a sense of connection to community.”

As a grassroots charity working with ethnic minority migrant families from low-income
households, ESDEG approves of the holistic approach adopted by Ealing Council in bettering
health and quality of life of its residents. Every week during our outreach work we meet migrant
mothers struggling to keep their families healthy and safe in poor, over-crowded social housing
accommodations. It’s a steep uphill fight.

“Emotionally I feel sick in my home, I can’t breathe properly, I can’t hear
properly, my nose and ears are totally blocked.”

Recently in one of ESDEG’s focus group chats where ethnic minority migrant women were
sharing their experiences about health-related issues, one Somali lady Zara* had a breakdown
while talking about her living condition. Zara lives in a two-bedroom social housing flat in
Woburn Tower in Northolt, Ealing and is a single mother of four children. Zara has lived in
Ealing since 2006, in 2010 she was moved to this flat. It has damp and mould, she has been
complaining about the condition of the flat to the council, but her landlord has not done much to
rectify the situation. Her living accommodation has had a negative impact on her health leading
to chest infection, water retention in her lung; she suffers from continuous cold and blocked
nose, sinus and has been hospitalised multiple times. The last time she was admitted to the
hospital she was kept there for ten days. She said that while in hospital she was worried sick
about her young children. Her children who go to school locally, also suffer because of the cold
and dampness in the flat.

“My nine-year-old son Ali used to love playing football, now he complains
of his chest hurting whenever he runs. He stopped playing.”

Zara said the past winter (2022) had been one of the toughest that the family had to battle. She
added that a regular feature of her life was trying to clean the mould off the flat’s walls. While
talking about her experience of dealing with the authorities, be it the council, health officials, or
landlords her lack of control and helplessness was evident.

Another of ESDEG’s service users Naz who lives in a social housing house in Southall talks
about the leaky roof and how the house is falling apart from lack of maintenance but nothing
concrete is being done about it.

“The house is old and over the years lack of maintenance has led to many
issues. It needs major work done, but they only keep deferring it…”

Every time Naz complains, someone visits from the Council and does some cosmetic changes,
while the main problem with the leaky roof remains. This results in damp, cold and mould and in
the current cost of living crisis, the family cannot afford to heat the rooms. Each member of the
family living in that house suffers from chronic health conditions which are directly related to
their environment.

Both the mothers talked about how their living conditions lead to anxiety and stress and
negatively impact their mental health and wellbeing. Also, both of them were really worried
about how their living conditions was affecting their children and their health.
These two examples are just scratching the surface, there are many more ethnic minority
migrant families struggling in cold and damp accommodations in overcrowded conditions in
Northolt and Southall in the Ealing borough of London. We sincerely hope that Ealing Council’s
new health strategy would incorporate these migrant mothers and make sure there is a
rectification in their accommodations which would lead to improved health and well-being.
*All names used in the piece have been pseudonymised to maintain confidentiality of our clients.

Housing Ombudsman Service

If you are a resident of Ealing and live in social housing, you could always approach the Housing
Ombudsman to resolve any housing related issues. Check out their website https://www.housingombudsman.org.uk/
Housing Ombudsman Service is an executive non-departmental public body, sponsored by
the Department of Levelling Up, Housing and Communities. They investigate complaints and
resolve disputes involving the tenants and leaseholders of social landlords (housing
associations and local authorities), as well as for our voluntary members (private landlords
and letting agents).

Investigating these complaints is a free, independent, and impartial service.