Half A Million UK Children At Risk Of Homelessness

Half A Million UK Children At Risk Of Homelessness

Horrifically, over half a million children in the UK are homeless or at severe risk of becoming homeless.

According to a recent report, ‘Bleak Houses – Tackling the Crisis of Family Homelessness in England,’ completed by the Children’s Commissioner, it is estimated that 585,000 children are either homeless or live their lives with the persistent threat of finding themselves living on the streets.

Official statistics indicate that 124,000 children in England live in temporary accommodation. However, the Children’s Commissioner report has found that these figures significantly under report the actual problem.

The Children’s Commissioner claims 92,000 children were living in ‘sofa-surfing’ families in 2016/17. This means that the actual figure for homeless children stands at 210,000 when those living in temporary accommodation are combined with ‘sofa surfers.’

Furthermore, the term ‘temporary’ has been used far too liberally with 4 in 10 children, equivalent to 51,000, living in this state of purgatory for over six months. In extreme cases, 1 in 20 children, over 6,000 young people, spent more than a year without a fixed and permanent abode last year.

It seems as though the care system is struggling to house the multitude of homeless youths with more ad hoc housing solutions like B&Bs, office block conversions and even shipping containers used.

By December 2018, 2,420 families were known to be living in cramped B&B accommodation with their families with a third remaining in these conditions for more than six weeks at a time, even though this is considered unlawful.

Of the total figure, 23,000 families were displaced and forced to live outside their home council area, causing intense disruption to children and their families.

The looming threat of 375,000 children living in homes suffering from rent arrears and financial risk could put too much pressure on a care system already failing its young people. More intervention and help is desperately needed to ensure the care system prevents these statistics from increasing in the future.

Anne Longfield, the Children’s Commissioner for England, commenting on the report, 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.”

Simone Vibert, Senior Policy Analyst at the Children’s Commissioner’s Office, and author of the report, said:

“Trapped by increasing rents and an unforgiving welfare system, there is very little many families can do to break the cycle of homelessness once it begins.

“Preventing homelessness from happening in the first place is crucial. Yet government statistics fail to capture the hundreds of thousands of children living in families who are behind on their rent and mortgage repayments.

“Frontline professionals working with children and families need greater training to spot the early signs of homelessness and councils urgently need to know what money will be available for them when current funds run out next year.”

Should the Government offer greater protection for at risk families?

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