Last year saw a bleak report from the Children’s Commissioner reveal that thousands of children in England are living in homeless families, trapped in unsuitable temporary accommodation, with little to no chance of enjoying security and finding something permanent to call home… and they are the lucky ones. Homelessness is increasing amongst young people and the housing crisis, which can be alleviated with more offsite adoption, is being felt by our children. MMC Magazine Editor Joe Bradbury discusses:
The Children’s Commissioner for England is Anne Longfield OBE. She speaks up for children and young people so that policymakers and the people who have an impact on their lives take their views and interests into account when making decisions about them. Her most recent findings reveal that:
- 120,000 children currently live in temporary accommodation
- 90,000 kids are “sofa-surfing”
- 375,000 children are in families at financial risk of becoming homeless
- 585,000 in total are homeless or at immediate risk of becoming so
Alongside this alarming data, another stark study has been undertaken by the National Housing Federation and ComRes, indicating that the severe shortage of homes is forcing 130,000 families in England to squeeze into one-bedroom flats.
The research from the National Housing Federation – which represents housing associations in England, not-for-profit landlords to more than six million people – reveals that more than one in ten children in England are living in overcrowded homes. This comes to a total of around 1.3m children from more than 600,000 families, who are stuck in overcrowded conditions because there is nowhere else for them to live. Overcrowding in England has now reached record levels, as around 96,000 more children are living in overcrowded homes compared to a decade ago.
- Just under half of children in overcrowded homes are forced to share a bedroom with their parents – this could affect as many as 627,000 children.
- In more than a quarter of overcrowded homes, children even have to share a bed with a parent or sibling – this could affect as many as 368,000 children.
- More than a quarter of parents in overcrowded homes are often forced to sleep in kitchens, bathrooms or hallways because of the lack of space – this could affect as many as 380,000 people.
- More than half of parents in overcrowded homes worry that their children aren’t coming home because of how overcrowded it is – this could affect as many as 695,000 children.
- Around half of children in overcrowded homes struggle to do their homework because of the lack of space – this could affect as many as 750,000 children. This includes 14% (as many as 190,000 children) who find it totally impossible.
We need more homes
At the root of homelessness, temporary accommodation and overcrowding lies the same cause – a chronic lack of social housing.
England alone needs around 145,000 new social homes every year, including 90,000 for social rent. This isn’t happening. Last year saw just 6,000 social-rented homes built; a direct result a result of Government cuts to funding for new social housing in 2010.
The housing crisis is becoming frightening; rough sleeping has increased by 165% since 2010, something that is decreasing in many other countries worldwide. The total of people living in temporary accommodation is at a ten-year high. Vast swathes of people are being forced into expensive and insecure private renting, including 1.3m children currently growing up in poverty in privately rented homes. Young adults are stuck on pause at home with their parents, unable to start their independent lives. Something must be done.
Prior to the Covid outbreak I was lucky enough to attend an event where just shy of 200 specifiers, architects, Housing Associations, housebuilders and heating engineers gathered to hear a passionate presentation from architect and TV presenter, George Clarke where he called on the housing sector to radically transform the way we build homes.
During his speech, Clarke called for an end to wet build. He said “you wouldn’t build a car out in the backyard, you’d build it in a factory and then you can ensure precision engineering in a way that is simply not possible outdoors. Why can’t the same be true of building houses, where we can ensure the highest quality of materials and construction and then ship individual modules to site? This removes the timely wet processes such as bricklaying and plastering and means homes can be put together in days, rather than months.”
The time for change is now. As George said “It has taken us a long time to change our mindset with regards to cars, fossil fuels and emissions and we are getting there but we all still see dirty, polluting cars on our roads everyday. When it comes to our homes, we have hardly started and we need to now!”
…couldn’t have put it better myself.