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Councils across England are sheltering an extra 906 children – the equivalent of an entire secondary school – every month in temporary accommodation.
The Local Government Association (LGA) said this equates to 120,540 children with their families, a net increase 37 per cent since 2014.
John Healey, Labour’s shadow secretary of state for Housing, said ministers “should hang their heads in shame” over the “shocking” figures.
“In a country as decent and well off as ours every child should have a home to go to,” he said.
Mr Healey said the spike was a “direct result” of Conservative government, attributing it to “the lowest number of affordable homes for 24 years, no protection for private renters, and big cuts to charity and council budgets”.
The LGA warned that living in temporary accommodation can negatively impact families by threatening the parents’ employment and health or children’s ability to focus on school studies and form friendships.
It said councils are under pressure to meet the added demand and need to be able to build more “genuinely affordable” homes and provide support to prevent homelessness.
Anne Baxendale, director of campaigns and policy at Shelter, said: “Every day we speak to families desperate to escape the dingy, cramped hostel room they’re forced to live in.
“The situation is getting worse as the lack of affordable homes and welfare cuts bite deeper.
“The Government has the tools to break this cycle of heartache and homelessness. [It] must abandon the freeze on housing benefit that’s denying thousands of families the essential top-up needed to pay for rising rents.
“And, in the longer term, it must build decent homes that families on lower incomes can actually afford to live in.”
Martin Tett, the LGA’s housing spokesman, added: “It’s clear the current situation is unsustainable for councils, and disruptive for families.
“Councils are working hard to tackle homelessness, with some truly innovative work around the country – and we now need the Government to support this local effort by allowing councils to invest in building genuinely affordable homes, and taking steps to adapt welfare reforms to ensure housing remains affordable for low-income families.”
The LGA analysed figures from the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) for its findings.
A DCLG spokesman said the Government is investing £550 million to help tackle the issue, adding: “The number of children living in temporary accommodation is down from its peak in 2006, but any increase in the number of homeless families is always a concern.
“We’re clear that whilst temporary accommodation is vital in making sure that no family is without a roof over their head, councils have a responsibility to find secure, good quality accommodation as quickly as possible.
“The new Homelessness Reduction Act will also help individuals and families get the help they need earlier, stopping them becoming homeless in the first place.”
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