Children’s Commissioner calls on Government to help children at risk of eviction

The Children’s Commissioner for England, Anne Longfield, warned that around 420,000 children are returning to school with the threat of housing eviction hanging over their families, unless the Government extends its ban on evictions. Her warning came as the Children’s Commissioner’s Office published a report showing the experiences of the thousands of children who had to live in B&Bs or temporary accommodation during lockdown earlier this year.

The report highlights the damaging effects eviction and homelessness can have for vulnerable children. Anne Longfield states, “Families placed by their council in B&Bs are often living in single rooms, and share kitchen and bathroom facilities with other households. I was worried that this would make it difficult for families to take protective measures and socially distance in the ways called for by Government guidance. It would also present real challenges to children who were unable to attend school and therefore needed to do schoolwork from their B&Bs. In March I wrote to senior civil servants at the Ministry of Housing, Local Government and Communities and the Department for Education outlining these concerns.”

To find out more about the local response to the crisis, she also issued a data collection to the 15 local authorities with the highest numbers of children in B&B accommodation according to the most recent publicly available data. This research estimated that there were between 1,100 – 2,000 families in England in B&Bs on 23 March when lockdown began. Whilst this number has now dropped, she felt it was still very concerning that across England over 1,100 families may have spent part of lockdown in B&Bs, with as many as 550 families who lived there continually throughout the whole of lockdown.

She goes on to say, “There needs to be a package of support put in place to help families meet housing costs, as the eviction ban and furlough scheme come to the end. The Government’s actions to house rough sleepers have shown that homelessness need not be a fact of life. Now more than ever, bold action must be taken to stop children in England having to live in temporary accommodation like B&Bs.”

Amanda Erskine is a solicitor in the Family department at Barker Gotelee Solicitors in Suffolk.

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