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Almost half of children who become homeless forced to move schools

Posted 09 Mar 2023

Shelter’s landmark research reveals how temporary accommodation disrupts every aspect of family life 

Shelter has today published a ground-breaking report into the lives of homeless families, which found that almost half (47%) of families with school age children have been forced to move schools as a result of living in temporary accommodation. 

The latest government data shows there are 125,760 homeless children living in temporary accommodation with their families in England today – a 67% rise in 10 years. Shelter’s research found that more than a quarter of households (27%) were moved into temporary accommodation more than an hour away from where they used to live. 

Families living in temporary accommodation are often required to move numerous times at short notice. Shelter’s report exposes the devastating impact this constant disruption is having on families lives, including on their children’s education and ability to work: 

  • Over a fifth (22%) of homeless children have to move school multiple times as a result of living in temporary accommodation 

  • Over half (52%) of homeless children of school age have missed days of school as a result of living in temporary accommodation, of these, over a third (37%) have missed more than a month of school 

  • 6 in 10 (62%) households were given less than 48 hours’ notice when they were last moved between temporary accommodation placements.   

  • 1 in 10 (11%) said they have had to stop working altogether as a result of living in temporary accommodation.  

The survey is the largest of its kind, recorded the experiences of more than 800 homeless families with 1,600 children living in temporary accommodation throughout England. 

Temporary accommodation is provided by councils to families who are homeless and qualify for support. It can include emergency hostels, B&Bs, one room bedsits and cramped flats. While it is supposed to be temporary until the council can find the family a more settled home, the acute shortage of affordable homes means families are often stuck in it for months or years on end.   

A staggering £1.6bn was spent on temporary accommodation last year-arise of 61% in 5 years. That figure continues to creep up year on year as the lack of social homes exacerbates the housing crisis. 

Shelter expects thousands more families will become homeless as the cost of living crisis worsens. The charity is calling on the government to unfreeze housing benefit immediately to prevent many more families ending up in temporary accommodation, and to build more social housing in the long run to end homelessness for good. 

Polly Neate, Chief Executive of Shelter said: “Living in temporary accommodation is hugely traumatic. Homeless families’ lives are being derailed as they’re shunted from one place to the next, often with little notice to pack up their lives and pull their kids out of school. 

“The government’s total inaction on housing benefit and failure to build social homes means people are becoming homeless and staying homeless. Housing benefit is supposed to stop people from losing their homes, but it’s been frozen since 2020 despite record high rents. Once people become homeless there’s no way out without the social homes to move into.  

“To stop more families from having their lives disrupted and devastated, the government must urgently unfreeze housing benefit so people can afford to pay their rent. But to break the cycle of homelessness for good, investing in quality social homes that enable families to put down roots and thrive, is an absolute necessity.” 

Lily, 29, and her two children aged one and six live in Bristol in a one-bed flat. They were forced to leave their private rented home when they were served a Section 21 ‘no fault’ eviction notice. Unable to find another rental they could afford, the family had to live in hotel rooms for months, before being moved to temporary accommodation on the other side of the city, miles away from her children’s school. 

Lily said: “When we were put into temporary accommodation after losing our home, the council said it could be for two weeks, or a year. We’ve been here since November now. Before that we were in hotels – we’d be there for a week, then have to pack everything up and check out. I’d have to take the kids to school with all the suitcases, with no idea where we’d be next until much later that day. It was a nightmare and so unsettling for the kids. 

“There were no cooking facilities in the hotels, so I had to go to friend’s houses and cook tea for the kids. At least in the flat I can cook, shower, and wash our clothes and I’m grateful for that. Some things are a bit better, but the baby doesn’t sleep very well and often keeps my six year-old awake as it’s a small flat. He falls asleep at school quite often because he’s so tired. I hope we can find somewhere more settled soon, it will make all the difference to my children.”  


Notes to editors:

  • 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. 

  • The number of children who are homeless and living in temporary accommodation is from DLUHC, ‘Statutory homelessness live tables: June to September 2022: TA: Type of temporary accommodation provided’: 

  • The amount spent on temporary accommodation (TA) by councils in England in 2021/22 is published by the Department for Levelling Up Housing and Communities Revenue outturn housing services, LA drop-down. The data is available here Councils spent £1.639978 billion on providing temporary accommodation for homeless households between April 2021 and March 2022. This figure includes the cost to local authorities of administering temporary accommodation, (160.79 million across England)  

  • We have compared 2021/22 data with 2016/17 data to show the change over the last year and the last five years. The 2016/17 data is published here Revenue outturn housing services (R04).The amount spent on administering temporary accommodation was not available as a standalone figure pre 2020/21. Therefore when comparing the figure over five years we have compared the amount spent just on accommodation in each time period (1.479186131 billion in 2021/22 and 918.414 million in 2016/17)