More than 150 homeless Bedford children in temporary accommodation during lockdown
Experts are calling for more social housing to be built
More than 150 children were living in temporary accommodation in Bedford during the last national lockdown, figures show.
Last winter, the Government instructed people to stay in their homes in an effort to curb the spread of Covid-19, but at least 86 families with children were without a permanent place to live when lockdown lifting began in spring.
Experts are now calling for more social housing to be built to prevent youngsters spending their early years in "grossly insecure" and poor quality accommodation.
Data from the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) shows that there were 175 children among the families in Bedford staying in temporary accommodation on March 31.
A Bedford Borough Council spokesperson said: “It is always a tragedy when families are made homeless and where possible the council works to prevent homelessness. When a family does become homeless, we provide an essential safety net to make sure they have suitable accommodation until they can be rehoused.
“The council is committed to providing good quality temporary accommodation to those families and individuals who are made homeless.
“Since the start of the pandemic, the council has ensured that accommodation is available to anyone who is homeless and rough sleeping has been virtually eradicated at this time.”
The spokesman added that on March 31, there were "no children housed in hotels, bed and breakfasts or hostels" - but confirmed they were in either paid self-contained accommodation, a self-contained accommodation leased from the private sector or in a local authority owned self-contained accommodation.
Darren Rodwell of the Local Government Association, which represents councils, said: "Having a safe, secure, permanent home is the bedrock of any child getting the very best start in life.
“This is a sad reflection of the lack of housing in this country and demonstrates the urgent need to build more social homes.
“This won’t happen overnight, but it is vital that councils, working with government, are given the powers to get building homes again at a scale that drastically reduces homelessness, as we look to build back the nation following the pandemic.”
Polly Neate, chief executive of housing charity Shelter, said thousands of children were paying the price over a failure to build enough social housing in the UK.
She said: "Without a home, children are spending their vital early years trapped in grossly insecure and often poor-quality temporary accommodation.
"We know from our own services and research that living in one room in a homeless B&B or hostel, with precious little space to sleep, eat or play, can seriously harm a child’s wellbeing and development.
“The bottom line is you cannot solve homelessness without enough homes that people can actually afford to live in.”
The MHCLG spokeswoman said decisive action to reduce the need for temporary accommodation, backed by £310 million funding for councils, was being taken to prevent homelessness before it occurs.
She said: "This is part of £750 million this year alone to tackle homelessness and rough sleeping.
“We are also investing over £12 billion in affordable housing over the next five years to help housing associations, councils and others deliver new homes – including up to 180,000 new homes should economic conditions allow – with half for affordable and social rent.”