Charity highlights plight of Sheffield homeless families in temporary accommodation

Dozens of children were homeless and in temporary accommodation in Sheffield at the start of the coronavirus lockdown, figures show.

Wednesday, 9th September 2020, 9:42 am

Housing charity Shelter said it is “unbearable” that tens of thousands of children in England had no permanent home when the pandemic took hold, after the national total hit a 14-year high.

Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government figures show 65 children from 21 households were housed in temporary accommodation in Sheffield at the end of March – an increase of 53 on the same point last year, when there were 12.

Across England, there were 129,380 children in temporary accommodation on March 31 – the highest number since 2006.

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A family living in temporary housing

Temporary accommodation may include bed and breakfasts, hostels or other nightly housing.

Shelter describes B&Bs as “some of the worst places for families with children to live”, as they often involve entire households living in one small room without cooking facilities.

In Sheffield, all households with children were in local authority or housing authority stock – 21 families in total.

Overall, 93,000 households were in temporary accommodation across England at the end of March, up by 9% on last year.

The MHCLG said the rise may be linked in part to the Covid-19 Everyone In scheme, which was introduced just after lockdown on March 23, and required councils to house rough sleepers in hotels or emergency shelters.

Shelter said the pandemic has compounded a pre-existing housing crisis caused by sky-high private rents, housing benefit cuts and a chronic shortage of affordable social homes.

Chief executive Polly Neate said: “It’s unbearable to think that tens of thousands of children were already homeless when the pandemic first took hold.

"What kind of futures will they have when they are spending formative time squashed into temporary homeless accommodation during a national lockdown?

“Life in temporary accommodation is hugely destabilising for children and can disrupt their development.”

She urged the Government to invest in social homes for local communities to save a generation from homelessness.

The Labour Party is calling for the Government to extend the evictions ban, currently due to end on September 20, to avoid thousands more people being put on to the streets before winter.

Thangam Debbonaire, an MP and the party's shadow housing secretary, said: “Before Covid, we already had devastatingly high numbers in temporary accommodation as a direct result of 10 years of Conservative government, whose policies have pushed people into poverty.

“The Government have known for months that an evictions crisis is looming.

“Not for the first time, it has been too slow to take action and despite the extension to the ban we’re still facing a potential disaster as there is still no plan for what comes next.”

An MHCLG spokeswoman said: “Every child should have somewhere safe to live, and councils have a duty to provide temporary accommodation to those who need it, including families with children.

“We are committed to supporting homeless families and we have put in place over half a billion pounds to tackle homelessness and rough sleeping over this financial year.”

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