Headlines: February 15th, 2006

The problem of homelessness in Britain is getting worse according to the charity Shelter, which today launches a report demonstrating how homelessness has deepened since the organization was founded in 1966. It cites the reduction in council and other social house-building as a major factor.The charity is using its 40th year to highlight the current crisis, which it says is trapping more than a million children in bad housing. That problem, the report says, has developed because of what it calls “a massive decline in levels of social house building.”

The report explains that ten years ago the Prime Minister made big commitment which has led to a dramatic fall in the numbers of rough sleepers. Now, it adds, it is time for the Government to make a similar bold commitment to end bad housing for the next generation of children.

Shelter was launched two days after the broadcast of the pioneering television documentary ‘Cathy Come Home’. The film and the creation of Shelter, the report says, led to huge public concern about homelessness, which in turn changed the housing landscape and saw the introduction of legislation such as the Rent Act and the Homelessness Act.

The charity says that in spite of such successes the number of households in temporary accommodation has risen from 6,400 to more than 100,000 since 1976, according to statistics from the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister. During the same period building of social homes has fallen by 87 per cent.

Adam Sampson, Director of Shelter, said, “So much has changed in the last 40 years but, tragically, Cathy has much less chance of coming home than she would have done back then.” He added that it was a national scandal that even more families were suffering the kind of long-term damage and insecurity that was highlighted in the film.

In April 2004 the charity launched its Million Children Campaign to put pressure on the government to commit to ending bad housing, which it sees as robbing children of their health and education and a fair chance in life.