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Last Updated: Thursday, 15 April, 2004, 14:44 GMT 15:44 UK
Million children in poor housing
Poor children in the UK
Poor housing blights the future of more than a million UK children
More than a million children in Britain suffer "devastating" health and education problems because of the housing crisis, a charity has said.

The housing charity Shelter is launching its biggest-ever campaign against overcrowded, unfit and emergency accommodation in the UK.

It plans to lobby the government on the issue which, it says, is exacerbated by a lack of affordable homes.

It says it wants politicians to end bad housing for the next generation.

The government said its priority was to significantly reduce the number of unfit homes, but agreed there was still much to do to improve the situation.

Housing boom

Shelter says serious health problems and poor education are often the product of what it calls the "dark side of the housing boom".

A spokeswoman for Shelter said: "It is an existing problem - it has been there for a long time, but it is a hidden housing crisis, partly to do with the fact there aren't enough affordable homes.

"Overcrowding, unfit and bad housing has resulted from that, and exacerbated what was already there."

One in 12 children in Britain are more likely to develop diseases such as bronchitis, TB or asthma because of bad housing, according to a report by Shelter.

The publication, Toying With Their Future, also reveals children who are homeless lose out on a quarter of their schooling.

No space

Elizabeth Clackson, 30, shares her two-bedroomed London home with her five children, who range in age from six months to 11 years old.

She sleeps in the front room with baby Millie, while the other children share the bedrooms.

She says two of her children have had confidence problems and her youngest son has "asthmatic tendencies".

There is a hidden housing crisis in Britain and over a million children are suffering the devastating consequences on their health, their education and their chances in life
Adam Sampson, director of Shelter

"It is really horrible, it is not a home," she said.

"We are all living in limbo between not having anywhere at all and having somewhere decent to live.

"The children can't have people over at all because there is no space to have people around, so their social skills are running down.

"We can't just do anything creative, we can't read a book, we can't sit down and watch a video together or do messy play pictures and arguments get really out of hand because you can't get away from each other.

"It is almighty stress, it really is ... you wake up to it, you go to bed and whatever happens if you go out for the day and get involved outside the house, then you come back home to it."

'Million children'

Responding to the issue tackled by the Shelter campaign, Yvette Cooper, housing minister in the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister, said: "Poor housing can be a blight on children's health and their choices in life.

"That's why we have made it a priority to cut the number of non-decent homes by a million, to stop families getting stuck in B&B accommodation.

"But there's more to do, including new investment in affordable housing and clear targets for future improvement, so that children can get a better start in life."

The Million Children Campaign was launched at press conferences on Thursday in London and Glasgow.

Shelter Report
One in 12 children in Britain are likely to develop diseases like bronchitis, TB or asthma because of bad housing
Homeless children lose out on a quarter of their schooling

Speaking at the London launch, Adam Sampson, the director of Shelter, reiterated the need for action.

"There is a hidden housing crisis in Britain and over a million children are suffering the devastating consequences on their health, their education and their chances in life", he said.

"It is time for housing to be put back up the political agenda along with education and health, where it belongs.

"That's why, in launching the Million Children Campaign, Shelter is calling on the public to support, and the Government to commit to ending bad housing for the next generation of children."

Housing gap

The Shelter campaign follows the warning that London will need 4bn over the next three years to plug its affordable housing gap.

On Wednesday, England's three largest housing organisations called for 8.4bn in investment from the government to tackle the nationwide "crisis".

But they said the problem in London is so acute so it would take about 50% of the funding.




SEE ALSO:
London needs 4bn for more homes
14 Apr 04  |  London
Brown's child poverty challenge
15 Mar 04  |  Business
Thousands of new homes planned
05 Feb 03  |  England


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