Housing crisis: 135,000 children will spend Christmas in temporary homes - with 5,000 families stuck in B&Bs

Thousands of kids are stuck in ‘grotty’ and ‘cramped’ B&Bs this Christmas - sometimes without space to play or banned from having friends over.

Temporary accommodation: 135,000 children in the UK do not have a permanent home this Christmas (Image: NationalWorld/Kim Mogg)Temporary accommodation: 135,000 children in the UK do not have a permanent home this Christmas (Image: NationalWorld/Kim Mogg)
Temporary accommodation: 135,000 children in the UK do not have a permanent home this Christmas (Image: NationalWorld/Kim Mogg)

Over 130,000 homeless children will be spending this Christmas in temporary accommodation across the UK, with thousands in “grotty” and “cramped” bed and breakfasts, often without their own kitchen or bathroom.

Housing charity Shelter says a national housing emergency is robbing youngsters of their childhoods, leaving them unable to play because of lack of space. It says they are also turning up to school tired and hungry because they are sharing beds and their parents have no facilities to prepare them proper meals.

Analysis of the latest data from each UK government by NationalWorld shows approximately 135,000 children from 67,000 households were stuck living in temporary accommodation at the latest count (either March, June or July, depending on the country). This included over 5,000 families living in B&Bs, hostels or refuges.

While figures for the festive period have not yet been published, in previous years there has often been no reduction in the number of children living in temporary accommodation between the last pre-Christmas update and December – and the total has been on the rise recently in all four nations.

Temporary housing is accommodation secured by councils for homeless individuals or families under their statutory duties. Charities expect the number of families to be stuck in such housing to rise due to people losing their homes amid the cost of living crisis.

In England, Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC) data shows 94,870 households were in temporary accommodation as of the end of June, including 59,500 with children. This was up 1% from the end of March. There were 120,710 children in temporary housing. Over 2,300 families with children were in B&Bs while over 2,700 were in hostels or refuges.

Scottish government data shows 13,945 households were in temporary housing as of March, 4,245 of them families with children or a pregnant woman – up 13% on September. There were 8,635 children affected, with 235 from 130 families living in B&Bs, hostels or refuges.

In Wales, government figures show 4,464 households were in temporary accommodation in March, of which 1,074 were families with children – an increase of 32% in one year. While there is no figure for the number of children affected, if the ratio of two children per household seen in Scotland and England applies, it would mean around 2,100 youngsters were in temporary homes. There were also 120 households with children in B&Bs and 180 in hostels or refuges.

And in Northern Ireland, Department for Communities data put the number of households in temporary accommodation at 3,658 as of July, with 3,913 children affected – 66 of them living in hotels or B&Bs. The number of children was up by 4% compared to February.


You can search for English and Scottish councils in the table above to see how many children are living in temporary accommodation. There is no council level data for Wales and Northern Ireland. Can’t see the table? Click here to open it in a new window.

Kiran Ramchandani, director of policy and external affairs at housing charity Crisis, said the situation was “truly shameful” and warned the country risks seeing more families forced into homelessness – sometimes for years at a time – without urgent action to address rising rents, the cost of living, and to build more affordable housing.

She continued: “This instability is hugely damaging for children and young people, who are forced to endure cold conditions, without space to play or focus on their homework, and often travelling many miles to get to school.

“The government must act to prevent homelessness before it happens. This needs to include investing in housing benefit so it covers the true cost of renting and setting out a strategy to deliver the genuinely affordable homes that are desperately needed, rather than relying on temporary solutions.”

Shelter also expects the number of children in temporary housing to continue to grow thanks to the cost of living crisis. This week the charity released the results of a survey of more than 800 families with 1,600 children living in temporary accommodation throughout England, to expose the “devastating impact of homelessness on children’s health, education and wellbeing”.

‘A grotty B&B is not a home’

The research found 35% of parents said their children did not have a bed of their own, 26% said their children were unhappy or depressed because of their temporary accommodation, 28% said their child found it hard to make or keep friends because of their living situation – whether because they felt embarrassed or ashamed or were forbidden from having visitors – and 61% said there was a lack of space for them to play.

Shelter also found that almost half of school age children (45%) had arrived at school tired, late or hungry as a result of living in temporary accommodation. In B&Bs, noise from other residents and bed sharing can mean youngsters struggle to sleep.

Polly Neate, Shelter chief executive, said: “A grotty hostel or B&B is not a home, but this is where thousands of homeless children are forced to live. And many more children will be thrown into homelessness as their parents can no longer afford to keep a roof over their head.

“The housing emergency is robbing children of a secure childhood. Something has gone very wrong when children cannot play because their temporary accommodation is too cramped even for toys, and no friends are allowed to visit.

“Shelter is doing everything it can to help the families who are trying to put on a brave face while experiencing the trauma of homelessness. But as the cost of living crisis deepens and more families need our services, we need the public’s support more than ever this Christmas.”

A UK DLUHC spokesperson said: “No child should be without a roof over their heads this Christmas. Councils have a duty to provide accommodation and we’ve provided them with £366 million this year to ensure they can find accommodation and prevent evictions.

“We are also providing cost of living payments worth £1,200 to the eight million most vulnerable families to help this winter.

“Temporary accommodation is always a last resort, but a crucial safety net to ensure families have somewhere safe to stay.”

A Scottish government spokesperson said the number of households in temporary accommodation is too high, and that it is committed to reducing it.

“We do not want to see anyone face homelessness, especially families with children,” they said.

“Local authorities are making encouraging progress with the implementation of their Rapid Rehousing Transition Plans in spite of the current difficult circumstances. It is encouraging to see that 20 local authorities have reduced the number of households living in temporary accommodation when compared to 31 March 2021. Additionally, 10 of those councils have reduced the number of children in temporary accommodation.

“The Housing Secretary has asked an expert group for an action plan to reduce the numbers of people in temporary accommodation and the length of time spent there, with a strong focus on households with children.”

Condemned: Britain’s Housing Crisis

The NationalWorld team is investigating the housing crisis blighting Britain. The current plight is years in the making, from renters stuck in mouldy homes to families unable to afford cladding repairs to make their flats safe. You can read more of our stories on the housing crisis here [link] and if you have a story to tell email [email protected].