MORE than 123,000 children and their families have spent their school holiday homeless, an increase of around 53,000 since the summer holidays of 2011, councils revealed on Saturday.
The Local Government Association (LGA) warned that the numbers of homeless children that councils are housing in temporary accommodation has increased by 76 per cent in the last seven years.
Councils, who since 2011 have been housing an additional 650 homeless children every month – the equivalent of an additional primary school’s worth of children every fortnight – are calling on the government to adapt welfare reforms and allow councils to borrow to build new homes, with the right infrastructure, to tackle the housing shortage which is the root cause of our homelessness crisis.
Living in temporary accommodation can present serious difficulties for children and families. The resulting instability can affect parents’ employment and health whilst children can struggle to take up hobbies, form friendships and succeed at school.
The LGA, which represents 370 councils across England and Wales, said that the current situation is now unsustainable. The net cost of providing temporary accommodation is spiralling, with more families struggling to meet the cost of housing. In turn, this is putting pressure on local government which, faced with an almost £8 billion funding gap by 2025, is calling urgently on government to provide measures that could alleviate the homelessness crisis.
Councils have led the way in improving how they can help homeless households, with examples of innovative housing options including modular homes, dynamic purchasing systems and private rented sector offers.
However, they want to turn their attention towards preventing homelessness from occurring in the first place, which means adapting welfare reforms to reduce the risks for vulnerable households of losing their home, and for serious measures enabling councils to provide more money for new homes.
Although council leaders say the government’s recent Rough Sleeping Strategy is a positive first step, they are warning that ministers need to go much further, much faster, to support councils to prevent homelessness for all groups, including families and their children.
This includes being able to borrow to build and keep 100 per cent of the receipts of homes sold under the Right to Buy in order to be able to reinvest in new and existing housing.