Almost half of homeless children forced to move schools, says charity report

Almost half of children who become homeless have been forced to move schools – with a third missing more than a month of teaching, according to a new report.

Leading housing charity Shelter blamed what it described as “total inaction” from the Government for the numbers of young people in “traumatic” living arrangements.

New research from the organisation shows some 47% of families who have been forced to “pack up their lives” have seen their children face educational disruption.

Ministers are being urged to end the freeze on housing benefits to help tackle the problem and prevent families from entering temporary accommodation.

Shelter said £1.6 billion was spent on temporary accommodation last year, which represents a 61% increase over five years.

The latest government data shows there are 125,760 homeless children living in temporary accommodation with their families in England today – a 67% rise in 10 years.

More than a quarter of households – 27% – were moved into temporary accommodation more than an hour away from where they used to live, according to Shelter.

Some 22% of homeless children have had to move school multiple times as a result of living in temporary accommodation, while 52% have missed days because of the disruption.

Of these, more than a third – 37% – have missed more than a month of school, the charity said.

Families are often given little warning before being forced to uproot their lives, according to the research.

Six in 10 households received less than 48 hours’ notice when they were last moved between temporary accommodation placements.

The survey, which the charity says is the largest of its kind, recorded the experiences of more than 800 homeless families with more than 1,600 children living in temporary accommodation throughout England.

It was conducted online and over the phone across six local authorities between May 19 and August 10 last year.

Temporary accommodation is provided by councils to families who are homeless and qualify for support.

It can include emergency hostels, B&Bs and flats.

While it is supposed to last only until the council can find the family a more settled home, the shortage of affordable accommodation means families are often stuck in it for months or years on end, Shelter said.

The charity expects thousands more families will become homeless as the cost-of-living crisis deepens.

Polly Neate, chief executive of Shelter said: “Living in temporary accommodation is hugely traumatic.

“Homeless families’ lives are being derailed as they’re shunted from one place to the next, often with little notice to pack up their lives and pull their kids out of school.

“The government’s total inaction on housing benefit and failure to build social homes means people are becoming homeless and staying homeless.

“Housing benefit is supposed to stop people from losing their homes, but it’s been frozen since 2020 despite record high rents. Once people become homeless there’s no way out without the social homes to move into.

“To stop more families from having their lives disrupted and devastated, the government must urgently unfreeze housing benefit so people can afford to pay their rent.

“But to break the cycle of homelessness for good, investing in quality social homes that enable families to put down roots and thrive is an absolute necessity.”

A Government spokesperson said: “Councils have a duty to try and place families within their own area. Where this is not possible, councils are required to alert the new authority and minimise any disruption to children’s schooling or families employment.

“Temporary accommodation is always a last resort and we are committed to driving down the need for it by preventing homelessness before it happens. We have given councils £366 million this year to help prevent evictions and make sure all families have a roof over their heads.

“Vulnerable children in schools, including those in care or with social workers, benefit from targeted additional funding and the support of a dedicated staff member in every local area to identify and champion their needs.”

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