1 in every 100 children in England will wake up homeless this Christmas

Posted 21 Dec 2022

THIS IS NOT A HOME: Shelter’s landmark research exposes devastating impact of living in temporary accommodation on children’s health, education and wellbeing

120,710 children in England are homeless and living in temporary accommodation, which equates to 1 in every 100 children in the country, new research from Shelter shows. The charity expects the figure to grow as the cost of living crisis continues to deepen the housing emergency.

To expose the devastating impact of homelessness on children’s health, education and wellbeing, the charity recorded the experiences of more than 800 families with 1,600 children living in temporary accommodation throughout England. The ground-breaking survey of homeless families, which is the largest ever conducted and funded by Trust for London and Joseph Rowntree Foundation, reveals the terrible toll of life without a home:

  • Sharing beds: more than a third (35%) of homeless parents say their child(ren) do not have a bed of their own and are forced to share a bed with another family member.

  • Education: almost half (45%) of school age children have arrived at school tired, late or hungry as a result of living in temporary accommodation. B&Bs and hostels are often not equipped with suitable or any facilities for parents to cook meals for their children, and noise from other residents and bed-sharing means children often struggle to sleep.

  • Play: 6 in 10 (61%) children lack space to play in their temporary accommodation.

  • Mental health: 1 in 4 parents (26%) report their child or children being often unhappy or depressed as a result of living in temporary accommodation.

  • Social isolation: more than 1 in 4 parents (28%) say their children are finding it hard to make or keep friends as a result of living in temporary accommodation. This can be the result of feeling embarrassed or ashamed of where they live, or because they are unable to have friends to play due to a lack of space or rules that forbid visitors.

Temporary accommodation is provided by councils to eligible families who become homeless. It is supposed to be a temporary measure until the council can find a settled home. It can take the form of emergency hostels, B&Bs, one room bedsits and cramped flats. It is not designed for permanent living and families can be asked to move numerous times with short notice.

Unless the government reverses the freeze on housing benefit, Shelter expects thousands more families will become homeless this winter as the cost of living crisis worsens and rents rocket.

Polly Neate, Chief Executive of Shelter said: “A grotty hostel or B&B is not a home, but this is where thousands of homeless children are forced to live. And many more children will be thrown into homelessness as their parents can no longer afford to keep a roof over their head.

“The housing emergency is robbing children of a secure childhood. Thousands of homeless children are turning up to school too tired to learn – hardly surprising when one in three have to share a bed. Something has gone very wrong when children cannot play because their temporary accommodation is too cramped even for toys, and no friends are allowed to visit.

“Shelter is doing everything it can to help the families who are trying to put on a brave face while experiencing the trauma of homelessness. But as the cost of living crisis deepens and more families need our services, we need the public’s support more than ever this Christmas.”

Shelter’s analysis of the latest government data shows 5,030 families are living in emergency B&Bs and hostels – widely considered the worst type of temporary accommodation. Families are often crammed into one room and forced to share bathroom facilities with strangers.

One such family who contacted Shelter’s helpline was Channah*. Channah, 47, is a full-time social worker and has three children. Channah was served with a Section 21 no-fault eviction notice and has been living in an emergency B&B since losing her home. It is a small room with a bunk bed and a kitchenette next to the bed. (*Channah’s name has been changed to protect her identity).

Channah said: “My daughter is doing her GCSEs and has no space to study. All of her work is online, and we have no access to the internet. She sits in the bathroom to study because there's literally no room when we are all there. She has just done her mock exams and the results will determine which sixth forms she can apply to. It breaks my heart to see her struggling to study.

“I’ve found out the council can access our rooms without notifying us. We have come back to the room and noticed that our bags have been rearranged and gone through. I felt violated and it was invasion of privacy. When I asked why I was told they can access the room without notice and at any time. They basically said you are homeless, and you do not have rights.

“All I want is to have a space I call home where my children can study and achieve what they can. This is greatly impacting on their education and I feel powerless.”

The charity is urging the public to support its campaigning work and frontline services. Shelter’s services provide expert support to families, which includes advice on eviction, immediate help to find temporary accommodation, and negotiating with landlords and councils as needed.

To donate to Shelter’s urgent winter appeal please visit www.shelter.org.uk/donate.

ENDS

Notes to editors:

About Shelter: Shelter exists to defend the right to a safe home and fight the devastating impact the housing emergency has on people and society. Shelter believes that home is everything. Learn more at www.shelter.org.uk.

Join Shelter’s campaign calling on the Prime Minister to protect people from homelessness this winter.

Anyone who is facing homelessness can get free and expert advice through Shelter’s free emergency helpline, webchat service and online advice pages. Visit www.shelter.org.uk/get_help to find out more.

About the research:

  • The number of children who are homeless and living in temporary accommodation, and the number of families living in B&Bs and hostels is from DLUHC, ‘Statutory homelessness live tables: April to June 2022: TA: Type of temporary accommodation provided’: https://www.gov.uk/government/statistical-data-sets/live-tables-on-homelessness

  • We compared the number of homeless children in England to the latest estimate for the number of children in England. In June 2020, the number of under 18s in England was estimated to be 12,093,288. This is from ONS, ‘Estimates of the population for the UK, England and Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland: Mid-2020’, MYE2: Persons by single year of age and sex for local authorities in the UK, mid-2020’. This is equivalent to 1 in 100.18 children in England.

  • Shelter’s landmark research with homeless families comes from a survey of 1,112 homeless households living in temporary accommodation in England. 75% of those households (833) were households with a child or children. They had a total of 1,616 children aged under 18 at the time of the survey. The temporary accommodation was provided under local authorities’ statutory homelessness provisions. The survey was funded by the Trust for London and the Joseph Rowntree Foundation.

  • The survey was delivered in partnership with six local authorities across London, the South West, Midlands and the North. The survey was conducted online and over the phone between 19 May – 10 August 2022. The response rate was 11% and the sample is broadly representative of the temporary accommodation population in England, including on the measures of family type, ethnicity, length of time in accommodation, location and type of accommodation.