The number of homeless children has increased 37% since 2014 scream the national news headlines today yet with no comment as to WHY this has happened and no comment on WHAT this means.
There is also a news item that says a holiday flight was delayed 38 hours too and imagine the misery a family with children has being cooped up in a family hotel room for that long? Now imagine a much worse hotel family room and being cooped up in it for 12 months and you begin to imagine what being a homeless family means!
The BBC news article on this issue is here and includes this photograph:
The BBC has used a stock picture and added “Living in temporary accommodation can disrupt a child’s education.” Can?! – No it definitely does and very adversely and it also affects their physical and mental health and their life chances.
Nowhere to play, nowhere to study, no privacy whatsoever, no friends can come round to play, its often far away from their previous home and far from friends and support networks too. Often with no laundry facilities too so Mum has to find a launderette and clothes go un-ironed as there is nowhere to iron and no iron itself so children are bullied at school because of it and with catastrophic effects on their life chances.
Yet how can this 37% increase come to pass as three million jobs have been created say the Tories? Oh you automatically presume and think homeless families are feckless layabouts reader? They’re not and only a few weeks ago I was reading a report of Maidstone Council which said that almost 70% of its statutory homeless are in work and that is by no means the exception either.
The BBC and other articles on this allude to some of the reasons why such as:
The high cost of private renting and combined with the freezing of housing benefit in private housing (LHA) while rents continue to rise
That is additional to LHA being frozen from 2012 and it being capped in 2012 and it being reduced to the 30th percentile of average private rent levels from the 50th percentile previously – All Conservative austerity policies.
The numbers of in-work recipients of Housing Benefit in the private and socially rented sectors has increased from 650,000 to 1,100,000 between May 2010 and November 2016 which shows starkly the UK low pay economy
The reason private renting has escalated so much (and unregulated) is because councils are not allowed to borrow to build and so their on average 70% cheaper rents are as rare as hen’s teeth. That too is a Conservative policy – blatant ideological policy and nothing more and why we have a housing supply crisis and a housing affordability crisis.
Then like the LHA example above we see other DWP austerity policies such as bedroom tax and the overall benefit cap that directly create the arrears to eviction to homeless pathway.
Add in the reductions to tax credits, both working tax credits and child tax credits and then throw in the surge in zero hours contracts and other unstable employment issues and this is what you get in children having their life chances irreparably damaged.
Work is the best route out of poverty is the Tory mantra and repeated again only this week by Theresa May at PMQs on Wednesday. Yet how can that be when we now have more poverty in the UK and specifically more in-work poverty? This mantra is even more superficial than strong and stable and just as much bullshit and the 37% increase in homeless children is a prime example of that.
Homelessness in all its forms is complex and created by many policies both intentionally and unintentionally and it generally only attracts public sympathy at Christmas with the rest of the time it has a public perception as idleness and only affects those not in work – get a job there’s million of them etc. Yet as the Maidstone example I cite above shows this is a totally false perception and as so many recent stories of nurses and other workers only surviving through foodbank use demonstrates.
The public tend to see homelessness as just rough sleeping yet this accounts for no more than about 3% of all homelessness and a point that Shelter were moaning about very recently … without realising the irony that they have had 50 years to inform and educate the public as to what homelessness is and have failed miserably in precisely that!
Homeless charities have failed in raising awareness of what homelessness is and that is a key factor in why homelessness is allowed to be subject to repeated homeless policy failure by all governments. Without public and thus electorate opprobrium each government is let off the hook and homelessness keeps its errant perception as only happening to the feckless.
Despite this issue of homeless children being headline national news today and even despite the very good annual Shelter campaign of how many children are homeless each Christmas (which coincides with general public sympathy even for single homeless) this issue will become tomorrows fish and chip paper as every homeless issue always does become.
It is twenty years since I managed Homeless Families Units that all councils used to have and the impacts this much better provision than the typically dingy B&B provision we have now on children and parents there still are fresh in my mind.
So enjoy your uproar for a day or so that these figures show and don’t worry gentle folk of the UK there is bound to be a Brexit or some other issue tomorrow so you can assuage the guilt you feel today …