Children facing homelessness launch campaign to Change It!
A group of 26 inspirational children and young people aged eight to twenty years old are launching Change It!, a national campaign on children’s rights and homelessness.
The Change It! group, who come from across England, and are supported by the Children’s Rights Alliance for England (CRAE), have developed their unique, child-led campaign after working together on a report on children’s rights which they submitted to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child. In June 2016 the UN said the UK Government must take immediate action to ‘strictly implement the legal prohibition of prolonged placement of children in temporary accommodation.’
Change it! is calling on the Government to listen to the voices of children and young people and to stop breaking the law by housing families in Bed and Breakfast (B&B) accommodation for longer than the legal limit of six weeks. Many of the children and young people leading the campaign have experienced homelessness and some of them have spent extended periods growing up in B&Bs, in dirty, cold, damp and unsafe conditions.
Children who are homeless are an invisible group and often ignored when decisions are made by politicians, civil servants and officials in local areas about the kind of housing they should live in. The Change it! campaign wants to make sure the voices of children and young people are heard and to stop the problems faced by homeless children being hidden behind closed doors. The campaign, launching today, will engage hundreds of children nationally.
Change It! Steering Group member Anmol said:
‘I spent two months living in a B&B with my mum when I was 15 and I cannot even begin to explain the importance of having safe, secure accommodation for children and young people. To be able to call some place 'home', to be able to feel happy after school about going home, not always worried and ashamed but able to invite friends over and do the same things as other people your age.
Children and young people have a right to be heard and taken seriously, yet in my past experiences of living in temporary accommodation; I didn't feel like I had a voice. This campaign gives me and other young people a platform to make things better. It’s time to Change it!’
Maria Stephens, CRAE Participation Manager said:
‘We are pleased to be supporting children and young people to take action on this important issue. The growing numbers of children and families being housed in B&B accommodation for longer than the six week legal limit is disgraceful. Extended periods in this kind of accommodation is highly damaging for children’s development.
The Government need to listen to children, take action to enforce the law and make sure all children have a real home where they can have a good childhood and grow and develop healthily.’
Barnardo’s Chief Executive, Javed Khan, said:
‘This campaign highlights the massive difference having a safe place to call home has on a child’s wellbeing. We know from talking to children and young people in our own services that living in temporary accommodation has a very negative impact on their lives and future prospects.
Barnardo’s is proud to support CRAE in its efforts to give this vulnerable group of young people a voice and the chance to tell their story, in their own words.’
In 2016 the number of families housed in B&Bs (3,390) was more than double the number at the end of 2013 (1,560). Well over a third of these families (1,300) were housed there for longer than six weeks. This correlates with an overall rise in numbers of homeless families. In 2015 government statistics show 38,040 families with children were homeless, two thirds more than the 23, 850 families who were homeless in 2009 (Source: Department for Communities and Local Government (December 2016) Statutory homelessness and prevention and relief live tables: Table 775 England).
Change It! Steering Group members and CRAE believe B&Bs do not provide a real home where children can have a good childhood and grow and develop properly. Sometimes they are infested with rats and children are forced to share filthy bathrooms with adults they don’t know. Research has shown that extended periods in this kind of accommodation increases the likelihood that children will be bullied at school, experience mental health problems or physical illness and fall behind in their education (Sources: Pennington, J and Garvie. D (2016) Desperate to escape: the experiences of homeless families in emergency accommodation, Shelter; Williams, Natalie (2016) State of Children’s Rights 2016 Briefing 3 Child Poverty and Homelessness, CRAE).
Download the campaign pack.