127,992 homeless kids at Christmas

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A record 127,992 children in England will wake up homeless on Christmas day, according to new government figures highlighted by Shelter.

The charity turned on alternative Christmas lights to mark their plight in Trafalgar Square, central London last Friday and is lighting up alternative displays around the country this week.

The huge installation of candles in Trafalgar Square highlights the number of homeless children, a staggering 83,962, who will wake up in temporary accommodation this Christmas in London alone.

The charity’s alternative Christmas lights began touring the rest of Britain yesterday with a display in Birmingham.

They go on to Manchester today, Bristol tomorrow, Brighton on Thursday and Norwich on Friday, 23 December.

At each of the displays around the country, pupils from local schools will be asked to light one of the candles that will make up the figure of the number of homeless people in that city.

The campaign is being backed by the NASUWT teachers union.

Chris Keates, General Secretary of NASUWT, said: ‘The statistics and information provided by Shelter are startling and indicate the profound effect poor housing can have on children’s education.

‘It affects attendance, behaviour and can lead to some children being bullied.’

Shelter is calling on the government to commit to building an extra 20,000 social rented homes a year to help lift thousands of children out of homelessness and bad housing.

Adam Sampson, director of Shelter, said: ‘It’s shocking that, in the 21st century, there are thousands of children in Britain waking up homeless on Christmas day.

‘Living in temporary accommodation robs children of security, health and a fair chance in life.’

l Yesterday the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) announced that there will be no prosecution in the case of 15-year-old Gareth Myatt who died on April 19th 2004 at the privately run Rainsbrook secure training centre near Northampton, whilst being restrained by staff.

Speaking after the decision the solicitor for Gareth’s mother Pamela Wilton, Mark Scott from Bhatt Murphy, said: ‘Some 19 months after 15-year-old Gareth Myatt died in custody my client remains largely in the dark about how he came by his death.

‘The little information that has been disclosed has been to raise serious concerns about the techniques of restraint with which we allow our children to be controlled.

‘The decision of the CPS (not to prosecute) on the basis of evidence that is not yet available will itself be the subject of scrutiny.’