Child homelessness this Christmas will hit eight-year high Guardian 03/11/16
The number of children who are homeless and in temporary accommodation this Christmas will hit an eight-year year high of more than 120,000, according to analysis by a leading housing charity.
Shelter said the figure was the highest since 2007 when 133,000 children were in temporary accommodation, and 12% up on a year ago.
“Because of the rising cost and shortage of housing, coupled with budget cuts, councils are finding it difficult to find suitable, settled homes for families,” it said in its Desperate to Escape report. “Consequently, more and more families are stuck in temporary accommodation, unable to move on.”
The charity added together government data for England, Scotland and Wales for the second quarter of 2016. It said 121,455 children were in temporary housing across the country, of whom 12,903 were in emergency accommodation, including B&Bs and hostels. The latter figure was more than doubled the 5,731 recorded five years ago. Other types of temporary accommodation include houses and flats offered by councils while they find permanent lodgings for people they have accepted as homeless.
Alongside its analysis, Shelter conducted interviews with 25 families in emergency B&Bs, hostels or sofa-surfing, about half of whom had been in that situation for longer than six months. the charity found that more than two-thirds felt their children’s mental and emotional health had been badly affected by their situation.
The families gave accounts of children becoming anxious, isolated from their friends and struggling to sleep. Half of the parents questioned said their children’s development had been negatively affected by their housing situation.
Every family lived in a single room without any space for the children to play, and more than half of parents also had to share a bed with their children. More than three-quarters of families said they felt their accommodation was unsafe, with the worst accounts involving exposure to drug abuse and fighting, and strangers sleeping in the corridors.
Shelter was set up in 1966, shortly after Ken Loach’s seminal film Cathy Come Home was screened by the BBC. Campbell Robb, the charity’s chief executive, said 50 years on too many families still needed Shelter’s help.
He said: “Almost daily we hear from parents desperate to escape the single cramped room of a B&B or hostel that they find themselves struggling to raise their children in. Imagine having to eat all of your meals on the floor, share a bed with the rest of your family, or being too frightened to leave your room at night – these are things no parent wants their child to endure.”
Glenn Hodges has been living in a room in a hostel with his 10-year-old son, Cam, since February. “I thought it would be only a couple of months but it has been eight,” he said. The room has a kitchenette, but they share the bathroom with other people.
The rent is £700 a month, some of which is met by housing benefit, but Hodges said his contribution had made it hard to save up for alternative housing. “You have no privacy and no security. You can’t relax,” he said. “They come round every day and check the room.”
The hostel rules say residents cannot have overnight guests, so Hodges has been unable to let his other two children stay. And life has been difficult for Cam. “He doesn’t have his own room to express himself. He can’t have his friends over,” Hodges said.
Hodges said Christmas at the hostel was “not something to look forward to”, but that he had managed to find somewhere else to live and would move out this weekend. “But there will be plenty of other families here who will still be here at Christmas,” he said.
Rising rents in the private sector have put councils under pressure to find homes for residents who have been accepted as homeless. In some parts of the country, councils are housing people in accommodation outside of the local area to reduce their use of B&BS. Recently, Milton Keynes council took on 110 flats in Luton to avoid having to house people in B&Bs after a 96% increase in the number of families in temporary accommodation.