'More than 80,000 children' homeless for Christmas

Shelter is warning that the number of families living in emergency accommodation is at a 10-year high

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More than 80,000 children in the UK face spending Christmas living in "shocking conditions" in temporary housing, according to charity Shelter.

It says the number of families living in emergency accommodation - often in a single room - is at a 10-year high.

The Local Government Association said a shortage of affordable housing made B&Bs the only option in some cases.

But Housing Minister Kris Hopkins said councils had received nearly £1bn to tackle homelessness.

Julia Salvidge describes the problems of living in temporary accommodation with her young son

Shelter's warning is based on figures released by the Department for Communities and Local Government that show 82,528 children were in temporary accommodation in March this year.

Looking at London specifically, at the end of June, 62,394 children were living in temporary accommodation, compared with 57,269 in the same month in 2012.

'No table'

The charity spent time with 25 families living in B&Bs and up to half complained of having to share a bathroom and kitchen with strangers.

Twenty-two families said it was difficult to find a safe place for their children to play, while others struggled to find somewhere to do homework.

"The majority of the families were living together in one room, while in over half of the cases investigated, children were sharing beds with their parents or siblings," Shelter's report said.

Start Quote

Shelter's report highlights exactly why house-building needs to be a national priority”

End Quote Mike Jones Local Government Association

"Two thirds of families said that their children had no table to eat meals on, and often had to eat on the floor or on the bed."

Joan, a GP receptionist from Hillingdon living in temporary accommodation in Hounslow, west London, with her seven-year-old son, said: "It's so hard to give him a balanced diet as it's impossible to make proper meals here, let alone a Christmas dinner.

"He's getting really pale and is so tired all the time. He gets so scared but it's difficult when I'm scared myself. This is no place for a child to live. We're desperately hoping we won't be here for Christmas."

Her son added: "Sometimes it's scary. There's no room to play here and I miss having my friends over."

Campbell Robb, chief executive of Shelter, said: "Our shocking findings have uncovered the shameful conditions homeless children will be living in this Christmas.

"No child should be homeless, let alone 80,000. But tragically, with more people struggling to make ends meet and homelessness on the rise, we're bracing ourselves for an increase in demand from families who desperately need our help."

'No excuse'

Mike Jones, chairman of the Local Government Association's environment and housing board, said: "No council ever wants to place a family in bed and breakfast accommodation but, with growing demand for help and a chronic shortage of affordable housing, this is sometimes the only option available to keep a family together with a roof over their heads.

"Shelter's report highlights exactly why house-building needs to be a national priority. Government's efforts to increase house-building must ensure that new affordable housing is built as part of developments."

But the housing minster said: "Families should only be placed in bed and breakfast accommodation in an emergency, and even then for no more than six weeks.

"The funding we've given, and our change in the law to enable families to be placed in suitable, affordable private rented homes, means there is no excuse for councils to breach this."

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