90,000 Homeless Children in London This Christmas

Capital faces most severe crisis in the country as pandemic worsens situation

Picture: Shelter

Nearly 90,000 children in the capital are expected to be homeless this Christmas, London Councils has warned this Monday (7 December).

The rate of families being placed in temporary accommodation is spiralling out of control as the pandemic continues to stretch local authority finances and demands for help reached record numbers, the umbrella group said.

Some 63,000 London households, more than two thirds with children, will spend the festive period in bed and breakfasts, hostels and other short-term lettings because boroughs do not have enough social housing.

The latest government figures show at least 4,000 more households will spend Christmas this year without a home than in 2019.

Darren Rodwell, executive member for housing at London Councils at leader of Barking and Dagenham council, said: “Homelessness rates are skyrocketing and London faces the most severe crisis in the country.

“These figures are a clear wake-up call that more must be done to tackle homelessness. Although the economic turmoil and job losses brought about by Covid-19 have undoubtedly made the situation worse, with more and more Londoners turning to their council for help, there’s been an upward trend in London’s homelessness rates for many years now.

“Boroughs are doing all we can to support homeless families but to see these numbers come down we need the government to rethink its policies on welfare, invest more money in frontline services, and prioritise building social housing.”

The problem is nationwide, but more than 60 percent of families in emergency accommodation are looked after by London councils because of the capital’s dire shortage of affordable and social homes.

Almost 40 percent of households accepted as homeless by London local authorities are also moved to different boroughs or out of the capital altogether, which often sees children cut off from other family members, their schools and friends.

At the end of June 2020, 27,650 English households in temporary accommodation were placed in another local authority’s area, 18 per cent more than at the end of June 2019 and 391 per cent higher than at the end of March 2010.

Boroughs collectively spend approximately £750 million on temporary accommodation each year but London Councils said it anticipates that spending on homelessness and rough sleeping will rise to more than £1billion by 2020-21 due to Covid-19.

Newham spends the most on temporary accommodation, paying £61.1million in 2017-18, but the largest increase in spending was in Hackney where spending more than doubled from £25.6 million in 2013-14 to £54.8million last year.

Jon Sparkes, chief executive at Crisis, said: “Everyone should have access to a safe and secure place to call home but, as these figures show, this is increasingly not the case for families and individuals across our capital.

“While the ‘Everyone In’ initiative has meant people have been supported from the streets into emergency accommodation during the pandemic, there needs to be more of an emphasis on getting people into long-term accommodation where they can rebuild their lives rather than month after month in unsuitable emergency accommodation, often without the facilities to cook properly or do laundry.”

A government spokesman said: “We’ve taken unprecedented action to support the most vulnerable people in our society during the pandemic, backed by over £700 million to tackle homelessness and rough sleeping this year alone and made extra support available this winter. We’re increasing the supply of affordable housing with over £12 billion investment, the largest investment in affordable housing in a decade, including £4 billion for 35,000 new affordable homes in London.”

Rachael Burford - Local Democracy Reporter

December 7, 2020