Children’s lives blighted by social housing shortage

An estimated 98,000 children have no bedroom and are instead forced to sleep in the lounge, dining room or kitchen due to overcrowding, new research from housing charity Shelter reveals today.

A further 268,000 children are sharing a bedroom with their parents, and as many as 72,000 teenagers of the opposite sex are being forced to sleep in the same room, the figures suggest.

The estimates, based on a survey of 505 overcrowded households living in social housing in Luton, Leicestershire, Bradford and London, are intended to put pressure on the Chancellor to fund more family-sized social rented homes in order to ease the overcrowding crisis.

They form the latest phase of the charity’s Million Children Campaign, which is calling on Gordon Brown to commit in his pre-budget report in November to building an extra 60,000 social rented homes between 2008 and 2011 on top of the 90,000 already promised over this period.

“Giving children the space to grow and learn ought to be a realistic expectation in 21st century Britain,” said Shelter director Adam Sampson. “Yet today, the health, education and future chances of thousands of youngsters are being blighted by cramped conditions that have more in common with the Dickensian era than those of a modern, thriving nation.”

The Association of London Government said the report highlighted the need for “an urgent commitment of resources and political will” to tackle the problem and backed the charity’s call for the overcrowding laws to be updated to reflect today’s understanding of the need for space and privacy.

“Recognition of the scale of the problem is the least that overcrowded households deserve,” said Stephen Cowan, chair of the ALG’s housing steering group. “The government should follow through on its pledge to consult on a change to the current outdated statutory definition of overcrowding, and we will be recommending it set an ambitious target to reduce overcrowding over the next 10 years based on a modern measure of bedroom requirements rather than a formula considered outdated even when it was introduced in 1935.”

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