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Tuesday, September 8, 1998 Published at 07:54 GMT 08:54 UK


Children of misery

Homelessness can have big impact on health and education

BBC Breakfast News on the Shelter report
Thousands children are growing up with health and educational disadvantages because they are either homeless or live in poor housing, according to a report by Shelter.

The charity says 32,000 children were living in temporary accommodation as of March this year.

At least 70,000 faced homelessness last year.

The number of homeless families Shelter saw in England last year rose by over 30%.

Some 9,500 - more than half - were either homeless or at risk of being homeless.

More than 2,500 families were living in homes which were unsuitable for children.

And around 100 families had nowhere to go. The reasons included family breakdown, unemployment and rent arrears.

Poor housing

Shelter's report, Growing Up Homeless, says that homelessness and poor housing conditions can have a big impact on children's health and educational prospects.

[ image: Damp conditions can cause long-term health problems]
Damp conditions can cause long-term health problems
For example, damp housing can cause respiratory illness, stomach pains and fatigue.

The National Council of Voluntary Child Care Organisations say babies born in temporary accommodation tend to be underweight and more vulnerable to infections.

There have been many previous reports on the effect of temporary accommodation on children's health.

Lack of room to play in bed and breakfast accommodation can, for example, lead to children becoming withdrawn and inhibited.

The effect of moving from temporary home to temporary home can also impact on education.

Barnardos says children from temporary accommodation are often considered outsiders and face problems of bullying at school and difficulty in keeping up with their studies.


Shelter's report is being distributed to schools, local authorities and other interest groups.

Chris Holmes, Shelter's director, said: "It is unacceptable that in the last decade of this millennium over half a million children have already suffered homelessness.

"This damaging legacy will consign many to grow up the forgotten, socially excluded victims of our housing problems."

The government says it is thinking of asking councils to find permanent accommodation for all homeless families.

A consultation paper on homelessness is expected before the end of the year.

Rough sleepers

Meanwhile, the government has announced a £34m package for rough sleepers and single homeless people living outside London.

The money comes after the Social Exclusion Unit's report on rough sleeping earlier this year.

Health minister Tessa Jowell said health authorities would be working with other agencies to identify rough sleepers' special needs.

The Department of Health will be announcing an increase in funding for the Homeless Mentally Ill Initiative shortly.

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