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420,000 children in England at risk of eviction unless Government acts: Children’s Commissioner

Government bans evictions for another four weeks

The Children's Commissioner for England, Anne Longfield, warned that hundreds of thousands of children will return to school in two weeks with the threat of housing eviction hanging over their families, unless the Government changes its mind and extends its ban on evictions. Her intervention came as the Children's Commissioner's Office published a new report revealing the experiences of the thousands of children who had to live in Bed and Breakfast temporary accommodation during the covid-19 lockdown earlier this year. The report highlights the damaging effects eviction and homelessness can have for vulnerable children.

The report coincided with news that the government had extended the ban on evictions for another four weeks. The government also intends to give tenants greater protection from eviction over the winter by requiring landlords to provide tenants with six months' notice in all bar those cases raising other serious issues such as those involving anti-social behaviour and domestic abuse perpetrators, until at least the end of March.

The Children's Commissioner's report estimates that 420,000 children in England are in families that are at risk of being evicted. This figure is based on the estimated number of families with children who were in rent arrears in May, and was obtained from a large representative survey of UK households. Using the same survey, a further 640,000 children are in renting families which have been using up their savings or borrowing more in order to make ends meet – these families will be at risk of ending up in rent arrears later on.

The Children's Commissioner's Office's report, No way out: Children stuck in B&Bs during lockdown, collected data from the 15 local authorities with the highest numbers of children in B&B accommodation. The analysis shows that when lockdown began on March 23rd there were 714 families housed in B&Bs across the 15 LAs surveyed by the CCO. Three local authorities in the sample had more than 100 families living in B&Bs when lockdown began: Birmingham, Ealing and Manchester. However, 10 of the 15 local authorities saw a reduction in the number of families housed in B&Bs between 23 March and 31 May, the end of lockdown.

The report finds that across these 15 local authorities, 265 families with children were in living in a B&B at the end of lockdown (31 May) and had been there for at least six weeks – despite this being unlawful. The report suggests that the figure for England as a whole is probably between 400 and 760 families. Across the 15 local authorities, the proportion of families who had been in B&Bs for at least 6 weeks increased from 43 to 56 per cent during lockdown.

Furthermore, across the 15 local authorities, 193 families with children spent the whole of lockdown – over two months from 23 March to 31 May – living in a B&B. The report estimates that across England as a whole, this figure is likely to between 290 and 550 families.

The Children's Commissioner makes a number of recommendations in the report.

For the report, click here. For the the announcement of the further protection for tenants, click here.

23/8/20