The number of children living in temporary accommodation has risen by more than 75% since the Tories came to power in 2010, despite the government’s repeated claims to be tackling homelessness and child poverty.
Figures unearthed by Labour from the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government show the number of children without a permanent home rose from 72,590 in the second quarter of 2010 to 128,200 in the first quarter of 2020.
The latest figures also reveal that the number of households in temporary accommodation has increased by 83% over the past decade.
Helen Barnard, director of the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF) said:
“These figures show there was an unacceptable rise in the number of families experiencing homelessness even before Covid-19 hit, and we know the pandemic has hit private renters hard.”
Vast numbers of people in rented accommodation were approaching Christmas in despair. “Polling by JRF last month found millions of people anxious about paying the rent over winter, and 700,000 households already in arrears,” she added.
“Renters are running out of options, and without action we could see a wave of evictions and a surge in homelessness, putting even more pressure on temporary accommodation services at a time when the health risks of overcrowding are clear.
“As we head further towards an unemployment crisis that has yet to peak, the government should act to keep as many people as possible in their homes.”
The charity is calling for a targeted package of government support to address high rent arrears.
The children’s commissioner for England, Anne Longfield, recently sounded the alarm over the conditions for children living through lockdown, and now Christmas, in bed and breakfast accommodation.
In some cases, entire families occupy a single room where they live and sleep, sharing kitchen and bathroom facilities with other vulnerable adults.
Thangam Debbonaire, the shadow housing secretary, said: “Thousands of families will be spending Christmas in cramped and, at times, dangerous temporary accommodation. Many more will spend the holidays worrying about losing their home. Without further protection, there is a danger that hundreds of thousands of renters – including many families with children – will be evicted.”
Separately, a survey by Centrepoint found that 73% of youth homelessness charities expect an increase in the numbers of young people sleeping rough. Less than a third (31%) of the 57 organisations surveyed by the charity thought there was sufficient support available for rough sleepers in their area, while only one in five thought there was sufficient support for young people forced to sleep rough.
Centrepoint warned earlier that 23,000 young people could be homeless this Christmas. It said the problems could be further exacerbated by the lack of suitable accommodation. One staff member said there was “no doubt that young people had been placed in risky situations” when staying in all-age hostels or night shelters.
Paul Noblet, from Centrepoint, said: “This year the government has committed significant investment to tackle homelessness, but this survey suggests this will be a winter like no other when it comes to providing the much-needed accommodation to keep rough sleepers safe. As temperatures fall, central government must guarantee that every part of the country has the necessary funds to guarantee that no one is placed in unsafe accommodation or put at risk by Covid-19.
“Key to achieving this is making sure that funding is made available not just to support older, entrenched rough sleepers but younger people too. With more and more under-25s facing time sleeping on the streets it’s vital that the government ringfences funding for age-appropriate accommodation so those young people can be kept safe this winter.”
The data emerged after a week in which Jacob Rees-Mogg accused Unicef of a “political stunt” after the UN agency stepped in to help feed deprived children in the UK during the pandemic.
The Commons leader hit out at the organisation, which is responsible for providing humanitarian aid to children worldwide, after it launched its first domestic emergency response in the UK in its more than 70-year history.
As part of its programme that is set to distribute more than £700,000 to help fund projects for children and their families, the agency has pledged £25,000 to supply nearly 25,000 breakfasts in a south London borough over the Christmas holidays and February half-term.A spokesman for the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government said: “Reducing the number of households in temporary accommodation is a priority for this government. This is why we are investing over £750m to tackle homelessness and rough sleeping next year. Our Homelessness Reduction Act has helped over 270,000 households into more permanent accommodation.”