Hundreds of children in area 'homeless'

MORE than 1,500 children in Suffolk and Essex will wake up homeless on Christmas day, according to new figures.Shelter, which campaigns against bad housing and homelessness, has claimed there are a staggering 8,587 children across the East of England who will be without a permanent home over the festive period.

MORE than 1,500 children in Suffolk and Essex will wake up homeless on Christmas day, according to new figures.

Shelter, which campaigns against bad housing and homelessness, has claimed there are a staggering 8,587 children across the East of England who will be without a permanent home over the festive period.

The figures, which the charity has based on the latest Government statistics of children living in temporary housing, show there are an estimated 672 youngsters in Suffolk who will be living in temporary accommodation and 1,017 in north Essex.

Jerry Lake, Shelter area manager at Essex and Suffolk Housing Aid Centre, said: “It's shocking that this is happening in the 21st Century.


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“Living in temporary accommodation robs children of security, health and a fair chance in life.”

The charity has now called on the East of England Regional Assembly (EERA) to commit to combating homelessness.

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It comes as the proposed East of England Plan, which aims to increase house building in the region, undergoes further scrutiny.

Shelter is now warning that unless homes are built the Government will fail to tackle the region's “housing crisis”.

Mr Lake said: “The East of England Plan must include a commitment to provide at least 8,500 new social rented homes each year up to 2015, and a minimum of 7,200 annually after this, for those in the greatest need.”

Shelter said the figures, which it released last night , are based on the latest quarterly statistics compiled by the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister from data supplied by local authorities.

They show there are 55 children in temporary accommodation in the Babergh District Council area, 32 in Forest Heath, 238 in the Ipswich borough, four in Mid Suffolk, seven in St Edmundsbury and 126 in Suffolk Coastal. The Waveney area also has 210 children in temporary accommodation.

Meanwhile, in north Essex there are 106 youngsters in temporary accommodation in the Braintree District Council area, 137 in Chelmsford, 288 in Colchester, 33 in Maldon, 428 in Tendring and 25 in Uttlesford.

A spokesman for Ipswich Borough Council said last night: “We do everything to try and house homeless people within the limits we have. Our hostels are supervised and well run and we recognise the problems homeless families have and do all we can to support them.”

However, Mike Eaton, head of housing and benefits at Suffolk Coastal District Council, said its latest figures showed there were only 79 children in temporary accommodation in the area.

He said: “I must stress and put this in context that none of this accommodation is unfit for human habitation and none is in a poor state of repair. While it is temporary you would not be able to recognise any of it as other than normal housing.”

A Tendring District Council spokesman said: “The figures have to be put in perspective. There's no street homeless problem as such. We don't leave people uncared for.

“At any given point we expect to have around 200 families in good quality self-contained temporary accommodation - pretty well all of it is exactly the same level and standard as the rest of our secure tenants.”

Colchester Borough Council homelessness team leader Peter McDonagh said the council's own statistics showed 155 children were classed as homeless - but about 110 of those were in self contained temporary accommodation, usually private rented houses. This contrasts with the figure of 288 provided by Shelter.

Two children were in bed and breakfast accommodation, six in hostels and four in the local woman's refuge.

He said the council tries to help families get into private rented accommodation rather than go into temporary council housing.

Graham Nelson, team manager, regional planning and transportation, for EERA, said last night: “We have an awful lot of sympathy with what Shelter are saying and trying to achieve.

“A lack of affordable housing is recognised as one of the major problems facing the region. We are doing our utmost to tackle that in the plan.

“We plan for an average level of at least 30% of the total amount of housing over the plan's period to be social rented housing of the sort Mr Lake is after, which is 7,200 a year out of the 23,900 annual average total level of provision.”

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