‘The kids can’t stop running around the house. They can’t believe it.’

Ark John Archer’s Parent Power group helps Layla secure a new home for her family. 

A Parent Power group at Ark John Archer, run in partnership with Citizens UK, is providing a space for parents to take action on a range of issues affecting them in the community.

Layla Mohamed is one of a growing number of parents who say the group has changed their lives. 

A friend, who knew about Layla’s housing situation, suggested she should attend. ‘We were suffering so much as a family because of how we were living. Me, my husband and three children were all in a studio flat. The conditions were very bad. There was mold all over the walls. If you could see where I used to live – you would not believe someone could live there.’

During this time Layla made several requests to the council. Two houses were offered but one was too expensive and the other too far away.

Through the group, Layla was encouraged to take a stand. ‘I arrived and a lady said ‘Layla, you need to have power.’ I was angry – I was so tired of talking, giving my story and nothing happening. But then I saw that she was not trying to crush me, she was trying to push me, to make things better for myself.’

Layla was introduced to a housing consultant, Tony Bird. He visited her home and supported her to write letters and emails to the council. There were also visits to the group by local councilors and the local MP, Marsha de Cordova.

On New Year’s Eve, she received a letter confirming the details of her new house: a three-bedroom flat, with a garden, that’s a commutable distance from her children’s school. ‘I could not believe it. I thought this was a dream. Before, we had one room where we slept, we ate. Everything in that room. Now I have a living room like a human, a kitchen, a garden for my children.

Before we moved, I was telling them they will have their own bed now, their own room. If you see your children smiling like that. They didn’t believe it until we stepped in the house. They ran everywhere, up and down the stairs. Even now the kids can’t stop running around the house. They can’t believe it.’

Nina Thorpe, Safeguarding Lead at Ark John Archer, added ‘If a parent is struggling, as a school we can’t just leave them on their own. Starting the parenting group for us was about empowering parents to bring changes. We know that lots of our families are affected by issues that are really hard to solve on your own. To try to understand your rights can be complicated and stressful. We want them to be equipped with the knowledge to know their rights and act.’