The numbers of homeless children councils are having to house in temporary accommodation has increased by more than a third in the last three years, equivalent to an extra secondary schools’ worth of children every month, local government leaders warned over the weekend.
The Local Government Association said latest figures show councils are currently providing temporary housing for 120,540 children with their families, which is a net increase of 32,650 (37 per cent) since the second quarter of 2014, an average of 906 extra children every month. There are 946 pupils in an average secondary school.
Placements in temporary accommodation can present serious challenges for families – from parents’ employment and health to children’s ability to focus on school studies and form friendships.
The LGA, which represents 350 councils in England, said the current situation is now unsustainable. The net cost of providing temporary accommodation has tripled in the last three years, as the extra demand places increasing pressure on local government, who face a total £5.8 billion gap in funding by 2020.
In a new report - 'Housing our Homeless Households - the LGA sets out the lengths that councils are going to in order to tackle homelessness in their area. Examples include innovative modular housing, dynamic purchasing systems and private rented sector offers.
But the LGA said councils need to be able to build more genuinely affordable homes and provide the support that reduces the risk of homelessness in the first place. This means councils being able to borrow to build and to keep 100 per cent of the receipts of any home they sell to reinvest in new and existing housing.
Council leaders are also calling for an adaption to the implementation of welfare reforms to reduce the risk of homelessness and for access to funding to provide settled accommodation for families that become homeless.
Cllr Martin Tett, the LGA’s Housing spokesman, said “When councils are having to house the equivalent of an extra secondary school’s worth of pupils every month, and the net cost for councils of funding for temporary accommodation has tripled in the last three years, it’s clear the current situation is unsustainable for councils, and disruptive for families.
“Whilst the Government’s indication it will explore ways to enable councils to build more homes is encouraging, these new homes can’t appear overnight, and the demand is urgent.
“Councils are working hard to tackle homelessness, with some truly innovative work around the country – and we now need the Government to support this local effort by allowing councils to invest in building genuinely affordable homes, and taking steps to adapt welfare reforms to ensure housing remains affordable for low-income families.”