Child homelessness: 135,000 children without a permanent home this Christmas

Child homelessness in Britain has hit a 12-year high with at least 135,000 children expected to be living in temporary accommodation on Christmas Day, according to new figures released by charity Shelter.

Will, 10, described living in a B&B as "worse than a horror film". Picture: Shelter
Will, 10, described living in a B&B as "worse than a horror film". Picture: Shelter

The research revealed 183 children lose their home every day - one every eight minutes - marking the first time the charity has been able to uncover the rate at which children are being made homeless.

The figures, published today in its Generation Homeless report, show the number of children in Britain that are homeless and living in temporary accommodation has risen by 51 per cent in the last five years.

The investigation found 5,683 homeless families with children currently being housed in temporary accommodation such as emergency B&Bs and hostels.

Although not living on the streets with nowhere to stay, these families are still classed as homeless due to the type of temporary accommodation they are placed in, the charity says.

It is warning unless urgent action is taken, a further 1,647 children will be made homeless by the time the general election takes place on 12 December, rising to more than 4,000 by Christmas Day.

The report highlights the “devastating impact” the housing shortage is having on young people often forced to live in cramped accommodation, sharing bathrooms with strangers and located miles away from schools and other family members.

One family interviewed by the charity has been living in a B&B since September despite being told it was only for a period of six weeks.

Ten-year-old Will said: “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. I find it really hard to do my homework as I don’t have another room to work in peace.”

The investigation by the charity revealed four London boroughs - Kensington & Chelsea, Haringey, Westminster and Newham - had the highest proportion of homeless children with one in every two children living in temporary accommodation.

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

The report illustrates the picture of homeless children in England by calculating an average of five homeless children for every school in the country.

Polly Neate, Shelter’s chief executive, said the figures were “scandalous” and served as a “sharp reminder” that political pledges to tackle homelessness needed to be turned into actions.

“Day in, day out we see the devastating impact the housing emergency is having on children across the country.

“They are being uprooted from friends, living in cold, cramped B&Bs and going to bed at night scared by the sound of strangers outside.”

Commenting on the report, the National Education Union (NEU) backed Shelter’s calls for an urgent strategy by the next government to tackle child poverty.

NEU joint general secretary Kevin Courtney said: “The survey shows how much living in emergency accommodation affects children’s learning and education.

“Having no secure home creates real worry and anxiety for children.

“An incoming government must promise serious and immediate improvements to the tax and social security system. Britain needs an economic plan for better-paying, secure jobs and a child poverty strategy with real teeth.”

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