The Tories' shameful housing secret - number of homeless children tops 100,000
Shadow Housing Secretary John Healey condemns ‘six years of failure on housing’ under Conservative Ministers which has led directly to so many ‘children that cannot go home’.
Every child should have a safe, stable and secure home in a decent, well-off country like ours. Yet new figures I have released today show there are over 100,000 children in England who are homeless and have no permanent roof over their heads.
Their lives are marked by transience and uncertainty in bed and breakfast hostels. Their belongings in bags, they share cramped bedrooms and bathrooms with no space of their own. They are children that cannot go home.
Ministers should hang their heads in shame over this homelessness crisis for our children. Six years of housing policy failure under Conservative ministers has led directly to today’s rapidly rising homelessness. You can’t help the homeless if you won’t build the homes, and the Government has ended all funding for genuinely affordable rented housing.
And homelessness is not inevitable. Cutting all types of homelessness right down was one of Labour’s proudest achievements in Government. It led the independent Crisis/JRF homelessness monitor to declare “an unprecedented decline in statutory homelessness”, while people sleeping rough on the streets fell by three-quarters.
Since 2010 rough sleeping has doubled and wider homelessness levels are soaring under the Tories.
The new figures produced by Labour and based on official data expose the scale of homeless children, with 114,930 children sleeping in temporary accommodation every night. The number of homeless families with children is up 70% over six years and now stands at 39,120 families, whilst the number being illegally housed in bed and breakfast type hostels for more than six weeks has increased fourfold to 1,080 families.
Housing policy failure on all fronts fuels this rapidly rising homelessness. The number of new social rented homes started in 2009 when I was Labour’s housing minister was 40 000; last year it was only 1000. Soaring private rents have outpaced incomes in many areas, yet Ministers refuse to act on rising costs and short-term lets. And deep cuts in housing benefit and homeless services have made matters much worse.
No plan to get to grips with this twenty-first century scandal of high and rising homelessness can succeed if it doesn’t deal with the causes. Labour backs new legislation to improve prevention of homelessness but to help the thousands of children without a home Tory ministers must also build more affordable housing, act on private renting and reverse their crude cuts to housing benefit for the most vulnerable.
John Healey is the Shadow Housing Secretary and Labour MP for Wentworth and Dearne