54% of state school teachers have worked with homeless children, says charity

Credit: PA

A study by the charity Shelter has found that 54% of state school teachers in the North West have worked with children who are homeless in the last three years.

Shelter have said that this highlights the damage that the "housing emergency" in the UK is having on children's education.

The study also found that seven in ten teachers in the North West said that the pandemic has more negatively affected children who are homeless or living in bad housing than those who live in a "suitable" home.

The study also found:

  • 90% of these teachers reported children missing school as a key issue. This is often because children can face significant difficulties with their journey to school if they become homeless and are accommodated a long way from their former home.

  • 85% reported children coming to school hungry. Temporary accommodation such as B&Bs and hostels are often not equipped with suitable or any cooking facilities.

  • 94% reported tiredness as an issue for homeless children and those living in bad housing. In overcrowded accommodation children may struggle to sleep.

  • 90% reported children arriving at school in unwashed or dirty clothing. This can be caused by a lack of proper or affordable washing facilities in temporary accommodation, as well as issues such as mould and damp in poor-quality housing.  

One teacher who took part in the study said about one young pupil: "She leaves home at 6am every morning to get to school because the local authority have no homes so she has been temporarily rehoused [out of area]...the family of four are living in one room at a B&B.

"Her attendance has dropped severely, she has become ill and she is always tired."

Polly Neate, chief executive of Shelter, said: "Without a safe and secure home, a child’s life chances can be deeply disrupted. This is not only a scandal affecting the North West, it’s a problem everywhere. 

"Without action the extra harm being done to homeless children as a result of the pandemic may never be undone. The region’s homeless children must not be the invisible victims of this crisis."

She added: "We still don’t know what the long-term impact of the pandemic will be on this generation of children. But for now, Shelter is here to support and give hope to the families who need us the most."

A Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government spokesperson said: "We’re investing £700 million to tackle homelessness and rough sleeping this year alone and our Homelessness Reduction Act has helped over 270,000 households who were homeless or at risk of homelessness into more permanent accommodation, since it came into force in 2018.

"During the pandemic, we’ve taken unprecedented action to prevent people from getting into financial hardship by helping businesses to pay salaries, boosting the welfare safety net by over £9 billion and extending furlough.

"We’ve also changed the law to put in place 6-month notice periods and banning the enforcement of evictions except in the most serious cases until after Christmas."

The charity have said they are facing a surge in demand and are urging people to support their frontline services and back their bids for more social housing to be built.