One in every 103 children in the UK will be homeless this Christmas, a new study has found, further revealing the scale of the country’s housing crisis.
A total of 131,000 children are now estimated to be homeless – around 50,000 more than five years ago, or a rise of 59% – according to an analysis of government statistics by homelessness charity Shelter.
Compared with the end of 2017, 3,000 more children are believed to be homeless – as well as the small number of children sleeping rough, this also includes those living in insecure temporary accommodation.
These calculations mean that an average school in Britain now includes five homeless children. In London, where the crisis is at its worst, there is an average of 28 homeless children for every school.
An estimated 9,500 children will spend Christmas Day in a hostel or bed and breakfast, the charity added, warning that the UK’s housing crisis is now being “felt across a generation.”
“Over the last five years, hundreds of thousands of children have known what it’s like to be homeless. The impact on these young people cannot be overstated,” Greg Beales, director of campaigns at Shelter, said in a statement.
“The number of children hidden away in hostels and BnBs is enough to make anyone’s heart sink. These are not places for children. We hear about cold, damp – even rats,” he added.
“Homelessness affects all people, but particularly children,” Patrick Mulrenan, a senior lecturer in community development and leadership at London Metropolitan University, told CNN. “It has a massive effect on their education.”
“There’s been a long-term trend since 2010 of more people going into temporary accommodation,” said Mulrenan, who was not involved in the study. “We haven’t been building enough affordable, long-term housing for people, particularly in London.”
“There’s also been some benefit changes which are making it very difficult for people to maintain their homes,” he added. “Back in the 1970s, you’d be shocked at someone sleeping on the street, and now people become immune to it.”
A report last year by the UK’s National Audit Office blamed, among other factors, rises in rental costs and the capping and freezing of housing benefits, which began in 2011, for the rapid increase in homelessness across the country.
It said the government’s approach to working with local authorities to tackle the problem was “light touch,” adding: “This contrasts with the more interventionist approach that it has taken during previous periods of high homelessness.”
Last month, another Shelter study found that roughly one in 200 Britons is sleeping on the streets or in temporary accommodation.
And a UN human rights expert published a damning report in November, which blamed the austerity policies of recent Conservative governments for causing a rapid rise in homelessness and inflicting unnecessary misery on the poorest in the country.
Shelter is urging the public to donate to its Christmas appeal to tackle the crisis.
“It doesn’t have to be this way. If we act now, we can change tomorrow to make sure every child has somewhere they can call home,” Beales said.
Around two-thirds of the country’s homeless children are in London, according to the new figures.
In Westminster, central London, one in every 11 children is homeless, while in Kensington and Chelsea – which has the highest average house prices in the UK – one in every 12 has no permanent home, the study found.