Surge In UK Numbers of Homeless Children
(3BL Media/Justmeans) – New figures published in the UK by the Local Government Association (LGA) reveals that councils are currently providing temporary housing for 120,540 children with their families; a 37% increase since 2014. This is an increase of more than a third in over the last three years. Another way of looking at it: it’s the equivalent to housing an extra secondary school’s worth of homeless children every month.
The leading cause of homelessness is the loss of rented housing at 39%, ahead of relatives or friends no longer able to provide a place to stay (26%) and the breakdown of a relationship (17%). While these causes of homelessness have remained steady, the loss of a rented home has increased in recent years.
This current situation is unsustainable, especially as the cost of providing temporary accommodation has tripled in the last three years because of extra demand. The LGA, which represents 350 councils in England, says temporary accommodation can pose risks for parents’ employment, children’s health and their ability to focus on school studies and form new friendships. Evidence suggests that homeless children tend to have lower academic achievements, which can increase the likelihood of insecure or low-paid jobs or unemployment in the future. There is an urgent need to build more genuinely affordable homes and provide the support that reduces the risk of homelessness in the first place.
According to Shelter, every day 150 families in Britain become homeless, leaving parents at breaking point and children’s lives in chaos – where the effect on children can be long-lasting. A study by the Charity in Birmingham found that 40% of homeless children were still suffering mental and developmental problems one year after being rehoused. While children living in overcrowded conditions miss out on the space and privacy they need to play, do homework and sleep properly. Without room to grow, many become sick or fall behind at school.
Councils are working hard to tackle the overall issue of homelessness, through innovative work and thinking around the country. The Teignbridge District Council has converted a town centre building into a homelessness hub within 22 months of receiving planning permission. The project is expected to pay for itself within 12 years.
However, Government support is needed along with local efforts by taking steps to create more affordable housing and adapt welfare reforms to ensure housing remains affordable for low-income families. Otherwise, we can expect children’s homeless to unforgivably surge from ‘secondary school equivalent numbers’ to football pitch statistics.
Photo Credit: The LGA