Child homelessness has surged by 80 per cent since the Conservatives came into government in 2010, with a new household now found to be homeless every five minutes, official figures show.
Newly published data reveals 124,490 minors were housed in temporary accommodation in England at the end of 2018, marking an increase of 55,440 since the same period in 2010 and a rise of 33 per cent in the last four years.
Campaigners warned that families were being “pushed to the hard edge of the housing crisis” by “crippling private rents, frozen benefits and endless waiting lists” for social homes that “don’t exist”.
It comes amid mounting concern that cuts to housing benefit and reduced funding for homelessness services, as well as a lack of affordable homes and regulation in the private rented sector, are pushing more children into destitution.
The figures show that the number of households in temporary accommodation stood at 83,700 in December 2018, marking a 74 per cent rise since 2010. Around three-quarters of these families include children.
More than one in five (21 per cent) households found to be homeless or threatened with homelessness lost their last settled home due to the ending of a private rented tenancy.
The government figures also show that within this group, there has been a considerable surge in families with children living in B&Bs, with the number increasing from 660 to 2,420 – a 267 per cent rise – between 2010 and 2018.
The number of young people who have been in B&Bs for more than six weeks is up by 440 per cent in the same period, from 150 to 810.
Shadow housing minister Alex Cunningham said the “shameful” rise in homeless children stuck in temporary accommodation would be the “legacy of this failed Conservative government”.
“Rising homelessness is a crisis of the Tories’ own making as we’ve seen investment in the number of low-cost homes to buy and rent tumble,” he added. “Add to that cuts in housing benefit, reduced funding for homelessness services and a private rental sector lacking any real protections and we know why so many are being let down.”
Polly Neate, chief executive of Shelter, said: “It’s impossible to ignore the frightening levels of homelessness in England right now. Hundreds of thousands of people are desperate for help, from those sleeping on the street to families trapped in emergency B&Bs.
“More people are being pushed to the hard edge of the housing crisis by crippling private rents, frozen benefits, and endless waiting lists for social homes that don’t exist. It’s clear this is a national emergency that won’t go away on its own – real change must happen now.
“The bottom line is that you can’t solve homelessness without building homes people can actually afford to live in. So, if housing really is the government’s top domestic issue, it needs to get serious about a new generation of social homes – 3.1 million to be exact. And, in the meantime, increase housing benefit so that it at least covers the basic cost of private rent.”
The Local Government Association said the increasing use of temporary accommodation was ”not only financially unsustainable” for councils but “hugely disruptive” for families placed in such accommodation.
“Many councils are struggling to cope with rising homelessness and to find suitable accommodation for those in need,” said a spokesperson.
“With homelessness services facing a funding gap of more than £100m in 2019/20 and £421m by 2024/25, the government needs to use its upcoming spending review to sustainably fund homelessness prevention.”
James Brokenshire, the communities secretary, said: “Everyone deserves a safe and secure place to live, and we are committed to reducing all forms of homelessness.
“Today’s figures show encouraging signs that the Homelessness Reduction Act is making a real difference in providing vulnerable people with the support they need, and at an earlier stage.
“But we know there is more to do, which is why we’re investing £1.2bn to tackle homelessness, including £100m for rough sleeping, as well as empowering councils to build more council homes to ensure everyone has a safe and secure home to call their own.”