As British families continue to face the effects of austerity and the housing crisis, more than 120,000 homeless children could spending this Christmas in temporary accommodation.
According to the homelessness charity Shelter, little has been done to reduce the number of children forced to live without a home to call their own.
Figures taken from government data indicate that 2016 has the highest number of children living in temporary accommodation since 2007, when 133,000 children were without a permanent home.
After analysing the data, the charity also found that families living in emergency B&B and hostel rooms has risen by 18% in just one year.
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Its report said: “The devastating results of our housing shortage are now being felt by over 120,000 homeless children in Britain – the equivalent of four children in every school.”
Shelter carried out interviews with 25 families currently or recently living in emergency accommodation. Many reported that their accommodation felt unsafe, with some exposed to drug abuse, fighting, hazardous or dirty conditions and strangers living in the same property.
All of the families interviewed had been living in a single room and over half of parents had to share a bed with their children. One family was sharing a two bedroom house with three other families.
The effects on homeless children can be long-reaching. Many become anxious, unable to sleep, and isolated from friends.
Campbell Robb, chief executive of Shelter, said: “Fifty years since Shelter was founded, too many families still need our help.
“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.
“That’s why we urgently need the public’s support to help us be there for the thousands of families who’ll need us this Christmas.”
A spokesman for the Department of Communities and Local Government said: “Temporary accommodation ensures that no families with children are ever left without roofs over their heads.
“This Government has invested £500m to tackle homelessness – including prevention funding and £40m for councils to help rough sleepers.
“Just last week, this Government announced it would be backing Bob Blackman’s Homelessness Reduction Bill – which will also provide vital support for many more people.”
John Healey, shadow secretary of state for housing, said: “Tory ministers should hang their heads in shame over these shocking figures showing over 120,000 children are facing homelessness this Christmas.
“These are the children that can’t go home and after six years Conservative ministers can’t dodge their responsibility for this scandal.”
Where to go for help
If you or someone you know is living without permanent accommodation, here’s where you can seek help:
www.stepbystep.org.uk A support service for a young people aged 11-25 years offering a structured scheme of accommodation and opportunities which can lead to independent living. Locations in Surrey, Hampshire, Berkshire and Dorset.
england.shelter.org.uk Shelter helps millions of people every year struggling with bad housing or homelessness through our advice, support and legal services. And we campaign to make sure that one day, no one will have to turn to us for help.
www.gov.uk/emergency-housing-if-homeless Government advice about how to access emergency housing if you are made homeless
www.barnardos.org.uk Barnardo’s homelessness service works with homeless families as well as young people who are homeless or living in insecure accommodation.