Number of children living in B&Bs hits seven-year high

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Children on swingsImage source, Getty Images

More than 93,000 children in England are living in temporary accommodation, the highest level since 2008, according to government figures.

They include more than 2,500 families with children who are staying in bed and breakfast-style accommodation.

Ministers said more than £500m was available to support homeless families.

The figures also showed:

  • Children were part of the 64,000 families in temporary accommodation at the end of March - 11% higher than a year earlier
  • 920 of those families had been in B&Bs for more than 6 weeks, 111% higher than 12 months earlier

Case study

Image source, Getty Images

In February, Samantha Ashby and her three children, aged 19, 17 and five, were evicted by their landlord so he could sell the property. For four months, they have been in temporary accommodation in a three-bedroom flat above a hairdressers and are still waiting to hear news about a more permanent place.

She's currently receiving housing benefit from Bexley Council but has been told benefit cuts will mean she will have to find an extra £35 a week. She has applied for a discretionary grant - without it, she doesn't know what she will do.

The purse strings will be tightened, she won't be able to afford to eat and it's already difficult finding the money to clothe the children, for school uniforms and to pay for transport to college, she said.

The constant moving from flat to flat and living out of boxes and bags for months on end is, she says, unsettling and stressful for her and the children. The longer it goes on, the harder she thinks it will be to cope.

"We need somewhere where we can go, and call home," said Ms Ashby.

Her message to the government: reconsider the right to buy, build more affordable housing and consider the cost of private rent.

'Cramped and unfit rooms'

Campbell Robb, chief executive of homeless charity Shelter, said the figures were a "glaring reminder" of the impact welfare cuts and our "drought of genuinely affordable homes" was having on families and children in England.

"Behind these figures are real families who've gone through the trauma of losing their home and are then left to linger in cramped and unfit B&B rooms, as overburdened councils struggle to find them anywhere that's stable and affordable to live."

Jon Sparkes, chief executive of Crisis, another homeless charity, said England was "sleepwalking into a homelessness crisis" and council workers were saying official homelessness figures did not accurately reflect trends in their area.

He pointed to the "shocking" 27% rise in the number of people becoming homeless due to the ending of a private tenancy.

"Clearly something is going badly wrong with our private rented sector," he said.

"More and more households are struggling to pay their rent in an increasingly insecure market, while cuts to housing benefit have left the safety net in tatters. For anyone finding themselves in difficulty, the prospects are decidedly bleak."

The Department for Communities and Local Government said it was making sure all homeless people have access to the help they need to get back on their feet.

Since 2010, spending on homelessness had increased, with more than £500m available to local authorities and the voluntary sector, it said.

This was to avoid a return to 10 years ago, when homelessness in England was nearly double what it was today, it added.

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