How the housing crisis is affecting teachers

Many of us are aware that the UK is in the grip of a housing crisis which is already affecting many thousands of working individuals and families. What is perhaps lesser known is the impact it is having on many teachers.   

For those in or about to take up their first posts schools or colleges, the combined shortage and expense of housing means growing numbers of education professionals, particularly younger teachers, NQTs and teaching assistants cannot find somewhere they can afford to rent and are being forced out of the market.       

The strain this can put on an individual’s mental health and wellbeing cannot be under estimated as featured recently a story we worked on with The Guardian. Shelter, the housing and homelessness charity, found in a recent survey that 1 in 5 of us have at some point in the last five years “suffered mental health problems including anxiety, depression and panic attacks” due to a housing pressure. And 1 in 6 have said the pressure has also affected their physical health. Shelter now estimates that as many as 41% of homeless households are now in work, rising even higher to 47% in London.

Increase in grant applications related to housing issues

Here at Education Support Partnership, we have seen a marked growth in the last two years among education professionals accessing our confidential grants service in relation to significant housing problems, often compounded by other difficulties.

Secondary English teacher Tara Diamond discovered she was going to be made homeless a week before Christmas. Her landlord decided to sell the three-bed house in Bath she’d been renting for £1,000 a month for the past 3 years. Tara, a single mother of a teenage daughter and son, quickly found that on her salary of £28,000, she could not afford to rent another home locally.

“My pay has been frozen while rents have rocketed in Bath. I was already spending all my spare time working as a tutor and marking exams just to pay for groceries and avoid getting into debt. Another three-bed place would have cost me £1,300 a month – 80% of my take home pay – leaving my children and me with just £320 a month to live on. Even landlords of two-bed properties were turning me down because I didn’t earn enough.” She needed £4,000 to move home, including the deposit. “I just didn’t have the money.”

However, she was desperate to stay in Bath. “All my support network is here, which is so important when you’re a single mum, and my daughter is doing her GCSEs. Plus, the children I teach at the local comp mean a lot to me.” She went to the council and explained her situation. “Despite being on the waiting list for housing for 10 years, they said they couldn’t help me. That’s when I realised I was going to be made homeless. I experienced this feeling which I can only describe as pure terror. I’ve never been so scared in all my life.”

In school, she pretended she was fine. “My mantra was: it would not affect my teaching, but I was so worried I struggled to concentrate at work. My head of English knew something was wrong, but I wouldn’t talk about it face to face. I was so ashamed. My self-esteem was at rock bottom. I’ve been proud to be a teacher, but if I can’t afford to keep a roof over my children’s heads, what does that say about my value to society?”

She poured her heart out to a fellow teacher, who told her our confidential grants service. “That made a huge difference.” We awarded her £2,000 to put towards her removal costs and her deposit and then, at the last minute, the council offered her a 3-bedroom home in poor condition on a rundown estate, for £489 a month. “It had no heating, no flooring and the toilet didn’t flush but I am hugely grateful. I feel like I’ve escaped a bullet.”

We're here to help

We are here to help anyone in the sector who is struggling with financial and money worries, helping people to get back on track. Carl Hanser, our dedicated grants case worker oversees around 550 applications a year in relation to money worries from across the education workforce.

Enquiries can become more common as we head towards the end of the summer term. Carl explains:

"Whilst the problem is more common for those on temporary or term-time only contracts, we hear from those across the sector and from many secondary school teachers. In most cases rent arrears are the issue but also for NQTs waiting to begin their first permanent roles, particularly in major cities where rents and deposit requirements are increasingly out of reach."

"People can get stuck, jumping between short-term tenancies where there is no security and this can have a very detrimental effect on wellbeing."

We are glad that we have been able to help many people to find short-term financial solutions to housing difficulties through our grant scheme but want everyone working in education to know that our support is here.

If anyone is experiencing problems related to housing or other work or personal worries you can call and speak to one of our trained counsellors, available 24/7 on our free, confidential helpline 08000 562 561. You can also apply and find out more about our confidential grants service.

If you would like to help us support more educations staff like Tara please make a donation today