Government failing overcrowded children

5 March 2010

Overcrowded family

The Government has broken the promise it made six years ago to update the 1935 overcrowding standard, leaving more than a million children trapped in overcrowded homes, Shelter says.

In a response to over 2,500 signatories on a Shelter petition, the Government has said it will not update the overcrowding standard, as promised in 2004, until ‘the right processes are in place to support overcrowded households’.

The Government’s response comes as latest figures reveal the number of households in overcrowding has risen to more than 650,000, the highest level for over 14 years.

Campbell Robb, Shelter’s chief executive said: ‘Overcrowding is a huge blight on children’s lives, with devastating consequences for their health, education and future chances. It is simply unacceptable for this antiquated standard to remain in place, allowing kitchens and living rooms to be considered as acceptable places for children to sleep.

‘Investment in health and education is a false economy if children are being brought up in cramped conditions, more vulnerable to health problems and unable to find space to do their homework.

‘After six years in which the Government has failed to keep its promise, we urgently need a uniform statutory standard for England which delivers a modern understanding of space and privacy, together with significant resources to end this hidden part of our housing crisis’, he added.

Part of the Government’s defence for failing to update the standard is that it has provided £15 million over three years to support local authorities to tackle overcrowding. Yet this equates to only £32 a year for each overcrowded family in the social rented sector.

Mr Robb concluded: ‘Shelter is calling on all political parties to make tackling overcrowding a priority in the next parliament. This means urgently updating the standard, delivering significantly more family-sized homes, and increasing funding to stop the terrible impact overcrowding has on children’s lives.’

You can see and sign Shelter’s petition and read the Government’s response to it on the Number 10 website.