Headlines: June 4th, 2004

A report published today details what it calls “the huge bill” being met by the taxpayer to fund the record numbers of homeless families in emergency housing. The homeless charity Shelter has based “Living in Limbo, on a survey of more than 400 homeless households living in temporary accommodation in England. It estimates that temporary housing is costing over half a billion pounds a year.The report shows the impact of homelessness on their health, education and job opportunites. Two thirds of those surveyed said their children had problems at school with the average child missing 55 school days a year. A majority of those questioned said their own or their family’s health had suffered and nearly half described their children as ‘often unhappy or depressed’. The findings also show that more than half of people in the survey had been waiting in temporary accommodation for an offer of permanent housing for more than a year.

Detailing the costs the Shelter report says 300 million pounds goes on on higher rents and additional housing benefit costs, 90 million on additional take up of out-of-work benefits and 30 million on sickness or incapacity benefit. A further 10 million is attributed to additional visits to GPs and disruption to schooling leads to a bill of 50 million pounds for out-of-school provision for children.

The report comes a month after Shelter launched its Million Children campaign to end bad housing for the next generation of children. The charity says the new report provides further evidence of the life-long damage caused by the lack of decent, affordable housing. As a first step to addressing this, it is calling on the Government to make investment in affordable housing a top priority in the forthcoming Spending Review.