A new report from the Children's Commissioner for England shines a light on the growing number of homeless families in England. The ‘Bleak Houses’ report, published today, estimates there could be more than 210,000 homeless children in England – 124,000 officially homeless and living in temporary accommodation, plus around 90,000 children living in ‘sofa-surfing’ families. This total could be even higher due to a lack of data on the number of children placed in temporary accommodation by children’s services.
Responding to the report, Enver Solomon, CEO of Just for Kids Law, said:
“Every child has the right to a safe and secure place to call home, but every day we are approached by children and their families who are facing homelessness or housed in temporary accommodation that is not fit for purpose. This puts children at serious risk, affecting their development, contributing to mental health issues and damaging their life chances.
“As cuts to benefits and local authority budgets leads to rising demand for dwindling services, all too often we see local authorities practice an insidious form of gatekeeping to avoid providing children and their families with the support they are entitled. The government must take a serious look at the findings of this report and act urgently to ensure the funding and infrastructure are in place to ensure that all children are provided with the safe and appropriate housing they need to develop into healthy adults.”
This is an issue that Just for Kids Law and our policy arm, the Children's Rights Alliance for England, has been working on for many years. Through research conducted as part of our State of Children's Rights report, we have revealed how increasing numbers of families with children are being housed in inappropriate B&B-style accommodation - many for longer than the legal limit. In response, we set up the Change it! campaign, which supports children and young people to speak out about their experiences of living in B&Bs, and stand up for their rights to adequate housing provision. Together they produced a report with first-hand testimonies and a video about the reality for children living in unsafe temporary accommodation, as well as meeting with policymakers such as housing minister Heather Wheeler MP.
Cover photo from mattbuck via Wikimedia Commons.