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Anne Longfield, the Children’s Commissioner for England, has published new research which highlights the thousands of children living within a homeless household. The report, ‘Bleak houses: Tackling the crisis of family homelessness in England’, reveals the stark reality of the experiences of children, some who are living in B&Bs, office blocks and even converted shipping containers.
In addition, whilst official statistics show 124,000 children in England living in temporary accommodation, this does not include the hidden homeless who are ‘sofa-surfing’, often in very cramped conditions and who may be unknown to services.
Additionally, the official figures do not include the number of homeless children who are placed into temporary accommodation by children’s services rather than Local Authority housing departments.
The Children’s Commissioner also warns that temporary accommodation is frequently not fit for children to live in. It is a reality for many that children have to spend years living in temporary housing while they wait for an offer of permanent accommodation.
Commenting on the report, Anne Longfield, the Children’s Commissioner for England, said: ‘Something has gone very wrong with our housing system when children are growing up in B&Bs, shipping containers and old office blocks. Children have told us of the disruptive and at times frightening impact this can have on their lives. It is a scandal that a country as prosperous as ours is leaving tens of thousands of families in temporary accommodation for long periods of time, or to sofa surf. It is essential that the Government invests properly in a major house-building programme and that it sets itself a formal target to reduce the number of children in temporary accommodation.’
In addition, the report highlighted that approximately 23,000 families are housed in temporary accommodation away from their local area. This can mean significant disruption for family life, meaning that children struggle to attend school or see friends.
The report also found that the risks associated with poor temporary accommodation can also reduce some of the most basic aspects of childhood, such as a child’s opportunity to play. A number of children and parents spoke about the cramped, overcrowded conditions (particularly in B&Bs where families often share one room). These types of accommodation leave little room for furniture and possessions, let alone space in which children could play.
The report provided the Commissioner’s office is staggering and highlights the plight of many families due to the lack of available resources to Local Governments and Local Authorities. It is hoped that the government take stock of the report and consider urgent, immediate action to resolve this situation for families.