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Taking rooms at the inn...
B&B accommodation, Issue 1460
homeless.jpg CHRISTMAS wouldn’t be Christmas without another rise in the number of children living in temporary accommodation. Sure enough, figures published last week show that 61,000 homeless families with 121,000 children lacked a permanent home in England at the end of September.

The total is up 6 percent on last year and 62 percent since 2010. Around 70 percent of them are in London, but the problem is spreading and the numbers outside the capital have now doubled since 2010. None of these figures includes the 384 Grenfell households in temporary accommodation at the time.

“Temporary” in this context can mean long-term (in a recent debate, MPs cited examples of constituents living in temporary homes for up to 18 years) but also very short-term. The number of families in bed and breakfast hotels has quadrupled since 2010. B&B in this context means living in accommodation that is not self-contained, and sharing bathroom and cooking facilities.

Cockroaches in the bedroom
The law says councils should not place families in B&Bs unless there’s no alternative, and only then for a maximum of six weeks. However, the most recent stats show 1,100 families with children in B&Bs beyond this legal limit, eight times more than in 2010. A recent report by the local government and social care ombudsman quoted one case where a couple with two young children had a shower that was out of action, a kitchen and toilet in poor repair and cockroaches in the bedroom; the family spent 26 weeks in B&Bs.

In another case, a mother with three children, including a baby with type 1 diabetes, had no cooking facilities and had to live on takeaways. When the baby contracted an infection, the hospital said it was because he was unable to manage his diet and the unhygienic conditions in the property. In a third case, the council told a couple with two teenage children living in a single room that it was not illegal to keep them in a B&B for more than six weeks; it is.

Asked at PMQs how she would ensure that fewer children are in temporary accommodation this time next year, Theresa May cited changes in the law, including government support for the Homelessness Reduction Act, coming in from April 2018. However, it remains to be seen whether this will be enough: local authorities have warned of a funding gap, an all-party committee of MPs has complained that guidance issued to councils has “too great a focus on those who are not eligible for assistance, as opposed to making more positive statements about what assistance people are eligible for”, and all the while the benefit cap and freeze will continue to drive an expansion rather than a reduction in homelessness.

More top stories in the latest issue:

THE SUM OF DAVID
David Cameron gets an early Christmas present – a new job managing a $1bn Chinese investment fund.

SCROOGE YOU…
The government and rail bosses criticise striking workers for disrupting holiday travel – but what of the rail firms’ own totally pisspoor Christmas service?

BUNCH OF ANCHORS
Where are the navy’s much-troubled Type 45 destroyers? Er, all six are either back in Portsmouth or hugging the UK coastline.

STATE OF THE ARTS
The cosy arrangement that sees Elisabeth Murdoch appointed to the board of Arts Council England has left artists and performers stunned.

ROLLS CALL
Simon Kirby, new broom at Rolls-Royce, has a major clean-up to perform at the engine maker – so criticism of his last role in charge at HS2 is not encouraging.

SAWS POINT
British farms are already short of labour thanks to Brexit – so what a pity a previous home secretary (Mrs T. May) ended the Seasonal Agricultural Workers Scheme.

COURT CIRCULAR
Despite losing his trade envoy job in 2011, in 2017 ‘Airmiles Andy’ was still the royal family’s biggest globe trotter by some distance.

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New from Gnomemart – The Royal Wedding Day FA Cup Final Commemorative Plate… Book of Revelation: Chapter 94: The Last Trump… Parents Urged to Look for Signs of Asthma if Their Children Wheeze and Win the Tour de France… Trumpelstiltskin to Send Cow to the Moon – Nursery Times Exclusive… Sparts Personality of the Year Won by Mo Mentum… I’m an Apprentice Masterchef Get Me Out of Celebrity Strictly Come Bake-Off Christmas Final – Xmas TV Highlights… Donald Trump’s Christmas Cheer, as told to Craig Brown

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- Gnome’s Christmas Giftmart: It's Transgender Barbie & Ken – and more!
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Private Eye Issue 1459