Children as young as five are spending 'hours' travelling to school because Westminster Council is housing their families miles outside the borough.

Homeless families, some with disabled children, are being booked into ‘emergency accommodation’ on a night-by-night basis – and can end up moving from place to place for months.

A Labour MP, who has spoken to some of the 76 families being housed in places as far as Hayes, Willesden and Finsbury Park, called it a ‘terrible way to treat people’.

It comes after a report earlier this year found the council was illegally housing homeless families in B&Bs and hotels for more than six weeks, forcing it to set aside up to £500,000 for compensation claims. But there is no legal limit on how long the council can house the families in emergency accommodation.

Westminster North MP Karen Buck said the main problem was the lack of certainty the families face daily.

She said: "They do not know where they are going to be staying and they do not know how long they will be there until. You cannot find them a school because you could be moving from that area in a few days, so you are stuck having to commute your kids in to Westminster every day.  

“Imagine waking up in Hayes and having to get your kids in by 8am each morning. They are five and six year olds and the teachers are complaining that they are coming in exhausted. At least B&Bs were local. These annexes are much further away."

Karen Buck, Labour MP for Westminster North
Karen Buck, Labour MP for Westminster North
 

Ms Buck added: "The council must have a duty and look after families for as long as they are in emergency accommodation. They cannot just pass it on to another authority.”

Daniel Astaire, Westminster Council cabinet member for business and housing, said: “Every effort is made to house people, whether in temporary or permanent accommodation according to need and availability. The council will continue to work very hard in finding permanent solutions for families requiring housing, including searching for adequate properties inside and outside of the city itself."

A council spokesman said that homelessness was costing the authority £33million a year and that it accepts around 800 homeless applications annually.

The spokesman said: “We have embarked on a housing regeneration programme that will create more affordable housing in Westminster. The council does contribute to costs for families on a case by case basis and provides advice and support to households about school placements.”