Number of homeless children at Christmas to be highest in 12 years

More than 4,000 children set to lose their homes between now and Christmas day, says Shelter

May Bulman
Social Affairs Correspondent
Tuesday 03 December 2019 08:57
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Will, 10, says living in a B&B, where he shared a single room with his parents and younger brother, is 'worse than being in a real-life horror film'
Will, 10, says living in a B&B, where he shared a single room with his parents and younger brother, is 'worse than being in a real-life horror film'

The number of children set to be homeless this Christmas is the highest in 12 years, with 135,000 youngsters currently without a home or living in temporary accommodation, new figures show.

An analysis of data by charity Shelter shows a child currently becomes homeless every eight minutes, meaning 4,026 children are set to lose their homes between now and Christmas day.

The report shows the number of families with children in temporary accommodation has increased by 11 per cent in England and 46 per cent in Wales since 2014 – while in Scotland it has dropped by 14 per cent.

A regional breakdown of England shows child homelessness has risen most dramatically in the north of the country, with the figure up by 233 per cent in the northeast, 339 per cent in the northwest and a staggering 400 per cent in Yorkshire and the Humber.

The West Midlands has also worsened considerably over the past 15 years, with a rise of 232 per cent, while in London the figure was up 8 per cent and in the southeast it had reduced by 18 per cent.

When looking at the proportion of homeless children, however, the worst affected areas were London boroughs Kensington and Chelsea, Haringey, Westminster and Newham, where one in every 12 children are homeless.

Outside the capital, the places with the highest concentration of homeless children are Luton (one in every 22 children) Brighton and Hove (one in every 30) and Manchester (one in every 47).

In one case, Will, 10, has lived in a single room with his mum, dad and younger brother in an emergency B&B in Ilford since the family became homeless after being served a “no fault” eviction notice – where a landlord evicts renters for no reason after their fixed-term tenancy ends.

Will, 10, sits in the bedroom he shares with his parents and younger brother

“Life in the B&B is horrible, it’s worse than being in a real-life horror film. There’s no room to do anything, even if I’m reading my book, as I’m still going to get annoyed by someone,” said Will.

“I’ve been told off by someone for running in the small corridor, you can’t do much, you can’t play much. I don’t get to play that often [...] I find it really hard to do my homework as I get distracted by my little brother and I don’t have another room to work in peace.”

Campaigners are warning that a lack of social housing, expensive private rents and welfare cuts over the past decade has left tens of thousands of children living in unsuitable temporary living conditions.

Polly Neate, chief executive of Shelter, said it was "scandalous" that 183 children were becoming homeless every day, and that it served as a "sharp reminder" that political promises about tackling homelessness must be turned into "real action".​

John Healey, Labour's shadow housing secretary, said rising homelessness was a "direct result" of the the Tories "slashing" of investment in new low-cost homes and "huge cuts" to housing benefit and homelessness services.

Tim Farron, the Liberal Democrat spokesperson for housing, said the fact that some of the wealthiest areas in the country were hosting the highest number of homeless children demonstrated how inequality had “flourished” under Conservative leadership.

A government spokesperson meanwhile said: “Every child should have somewhere safe to live, and councils have a duty to provide temporary accommodation to those who need it, including families with children.

“We’re supporting them to reduce the numbers in temporary accommodation by giving £1.2bn to tackle all types of homelessness.”

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