Squalor that is damaging young

Bad housing is damaging too many of our children. As Shelter’s
recent Generation Squalor investigation shows, the situation is
dire for children in temporary accommodation. They are often placed
in unsuitable housing for long periods, sometimes for two years or
more, and are moved around. This can disrupt their education and
the health of the family as a whole, particularly in terms of
mental health.

Frequent moves and unstable housing mean that children have to
leave their friends and support networks. Many children end up
bullied at school or take on a disproportionate role in helping the
family to cope. Often older children drop out of college or
employment in order to help parents and carers in coping with these

Policies on a local level need to work to stop this happening and
services need to be more responsive. It is all very well to
restrict the number of weeks families are placed in bed and
breakfast accommodation. But to then move the family after reaching
the six-week limit could exacerbate problems in accessing education
and other services.

The costs of temporary accommodation can also have significant
consequences. If you miss out on a week’s housing benefit you can
end up in rent arrears, which can then bar you from accessing
longer-term accommodation. This can lead to already excluded
families living in unsuitable accommodation with limited hope of
accessing more stable accommodation.

As a first step, families in temporary accommodation need some
security – assurance that at the very least they are not going to
be moved on too quickly.

Beyond short-term solutions, there has to be a massive drive to
build affordable homes for those in most need. Local authorities
also need to liaise more closely in placing homeless families so
they are not competing with each other for private lettings.

Children in temporary accommodation should not lose out. We need to
bring their education to the centre of the debate. For the moment,
we still risk seriously damaging the life chances of these

Mark Foster is chief executive of King’s Cross Homelessness
Project and chair of the London Homeless Families Network

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