A child in Britain is made homeless every eight minutes. That means, if one child is made homeless now, by the time you finish reading this piece another will also be without a safe and permanent residence. This adds up to 135,000 kids who will be homeless this Christmas. There is no way of sugar-coating this. There is no spin, no explanation, no excuse. It’s a number that shames us. We should not just be angry, we should be shaking with rage. We cannot accept that this is OK, or that this is normal.
Neither can we allow policy decisions from the very top to be excused so that parents are blamed, or that fingers are pointed at those parents as some set of feckless mass. A proportion of these children are in one-room B&Bs because of Section 21 orders – no-fault evictions. It could be simply that the private landlord, keenly aware that their property could make more money, buck out a family and put up the rent for somebody else. Others may be there because their mothers are fleeing dangerous situations and there is so little safe provision for them.
We also know that the rollout of Universal Credit, with its associated five-week wait, has had a hugely damaging impact.
This is, as declared by Shelter chief executive Polly Neate, a housing emergency. Shelter carried out the research and delivered the report that these figures are drawn from. And there are damning figures aplenty. Some 5,683 homeless families with children are trapped in temporary accommodation.
It’s obvious that nobody in the general election campaign has come up with titanium-plated policies to fix the systemic problems
And beyond the kids, homelessness also accelerates on the streets. Last week, Chancellor of the Exchequer Sajid Javid blamed the last Labour administration, who left power in 2010, for the current state of homelessness. That is despite the shocking figures around child homelessness and rough sleeping. At a conservative estimate – no pun intended – rough sleeping has risen 165 per cent in recent years.
There is simply no doubt that almost a decade of austerity measures have disproportionately hammered the poorest in society.