The number of children having to be housed in temporary accommodation has rocketed by 37% since the second quarter of 2014, as charities call on the government to take urgent action to tackle the growing homeless crisis.
Figures published by the Local Government Association (LGA) reveal that councils are providing temporary housing for 120,540 children with their families, an increase of 32,650 or 37% since 2014.
The shocking figure represents an increase of more than a third over the last three years, and is equivalent to housing an extra secondary school’s worth of homeless children each month.
The LGA, which represents 350 councils in England, says temporary accommodation can pose risks for parents’ employment, children’s health and their ability to focus on school studies and form new friendships.
They add that the current situation is quickly becoming unsustainable, with the cost to councils of providing temporary accommodation for homeless households tripling in the last three years alone.
Growing demand is also placing a huge strain on local authority budgets, the LGA says, as councils face a total £5.8 billion gap in funding by 2020.
The LGA says councils need to be able to build genuinely affordable homes, which means allowing them to borrow to build and to keep 100% of the receipts of any home they sell to reinvest in new and existing housing.
Council leaders are also calling on the government to make changes to welfare reforms, such as the new Universal Credit, to reduce the risk of homelessness and access to funding to provide permanent 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.”
Anne Baxendale, director of campaigns and policy at charity Shelter, said: “Every day we speak to families desperate to escape the dingy, cramped hostel room they’re forced to live in, for weeks if not months, as overstretched councils can’t find them anywhere else.
“The situation is getting worse as the lack of affordable homes and welfare cuts bite deeper.
“The Government has the tools to break this cycle of heartache and homelessness. Firstly, they must abandon the freeze on housing benefit that’s denying thousands of families the essential top-up needed to pay for rising rents.
“And, in the longer term, they must build decent homes that families on lower incomes can actually afford to live in.”