“120,000 children will be homeless this Christmas”
Shelter, 3 November 2016
120,000 children may be staying in temporary accommodation in Great Britain next month.
There are no centrally published statistics for homelessness in the UK as a whole. Shelter has estimated that there are 120,000 children homeless in Great Britain by adding together official statistics from England and Scotland, and estimating a number for Wales.
These are children living in temporary accommodation. As Shelter says, “homeless children rarely experience the most visible manifestation of homelessness—having to sleep rough”. Councils have a duty to find somewhere for under-18s to sleep.
Do the sums add up?
The most recent data we have from all three countries is for March. At that point 112,000 children, or pregnant women, were living in temporary accommodation in England, 5,200 children in Scotland and 765 families with children in Wales. Any children who haven’t asked the council for help and instead stay with friends, for example, won’t show up in the temporary accommodation figures.
So earlier this year there were easily 120,000 children in this situation in England and Scotland alone, using the most recent data.
The number of children in temporary accommodation has been increasing. In March 2016 it was 13% higher than the year before in both England and Scotland. In England it has been steadily increasing since 2011. So 120,000 children in December looks like a reasonable—if anything conservative—estimate.
A family is homeless if they have no secure place they are allowed to live together, or if they cannot reasonably be expected to stay in their home. Not all homeless people are entitled to accommodation, but families with children are much more likely to qualify for help than single people. The council should offer them temporary accommodation in a hostel, B&B, or on a short-term tenancy.
In England most people move out of temporary accommodation in under 6 months, but 3-4% have been there for more than 5 years before they leave. According to regulations issued in 2004, children in England should not be housed in B&Bs for more than six weeks. However in June 2016 over 1,000 families were in this position.
Temporary accommodation includes what Shelter calls ‘emergency accommodation’, where families have to share cooking or washing facilities. Families can be living in one room in shared houses and hostels as well as B&Bs.