Today the UK Government quietly announced that 5,030 more children have just become homeless in England in 2023. That is an increase of 10 percent – or 12,640 kids – since the cost-of-living crisis began at end of 2021.
Over 130,000 children are now growing up in an unstable environment, without a secure roof over their head, and with constant disruption to their young lives. This is a violation of their everyday human rights to adequate housing, education and health.
In the UK if you suddenly find yourself without a roof over your head, perhaps your landlord puts your rent up, or your relationship with your partner breaks down, and you cannot afford to move somewhere new, you can approach your local council and request help.
This is what has happened to thousands of families in England, currently classified as homeless and living in temporary accommodation. This housing is often incredibly cramped, with families eating their meals on the floor surrounded by their possessions, or its substandard with black mould growing on the walls and water leaking from the ceiling. It is often the worst housing in the country.
The everyday human rights of people in these situations – their economic, social and cultural rights – are being violated every day. These violations relate to their:
- Right to adequate housing – temporary accommodation breaches this it does not guarantee physical safety or provide adequate space, as well as protection against the cold, damp, heat, rain, wind, and structural hazards.
- Right to education – if children are living in temporary accommodation, then their education is often impacted as with little space, there is often nowhere suitable for them to do their homework. Families in temporary accommodation are also often moved around a lot, and so children may have to commute many hours to their school.
- Right to health – common issues such as black mould which can cause health complications including severe allergic reactions, respiratory illnesses, asthma, coughing, wheezing, chest tightness, and shortness of breath.
The twin forces of the cost-of-living crisis and the housing crisis are spiralling out of control and causing misery for millions.
It is time for a human rights based response to these issues.
It is time that we enshrined our economic, social and cultural rights into domestic law. This would be a practical, long-term solution to tackling issues like the record levels of child homelessness.
Our children deserve to grow up in healthy, safe homes where their everyday rights are protected.