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Hidden Homeless: Almost 200 Norfolk children living in emergency accommodation

A rise in homelessness has means councils have to place more people in emergency accommodation. Picture: James Bass

A rise in homelessness has means councils have to place more people in emergency accommodation. Picture: James Bass

Evening News © 2004

Almost 200 children are living in emergency accommodation as pledges to stop using B&Bs to house the homeless fall flat.

Some of the B&Bs used by councils to house the homeless. Photo: ArchantSome of the B&Bs used by councils to house the homeless. Photo: Archant

As revealed on Monday, councils are spending hundreds of thousands of pounds a year housing families in cheap B&Bs, sometimes for several months.

Councils said they used the B&Bs as a "last resort", but charity Shelter said that it saw councils using the accommodation as the "only resort".

They called on local authorities to build temporary accommodation themselves so they would not need to rely on B&Bs.

Lesley Burdett, Shelter Norfolk hub manager, said: "There is a critical shortage of suitable temporary accommodation in Norwich, which means a worrying number of homeless families with children are living in cramped hotels and B&Bs away from their local communities.

"No child should have to experience the trauma of homelessness, which is why we urgently need an overhaul of housing policy to address this current crisis.

"Right now in Norfolk, the council must make providing more suitable temporary accommodation for homeless families an absolute priority.

"But to really tackle homelessness, social housing is what's needed - which is why we are calling on the government to build 3.1 million social homes over the next 20 years."

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The latest figures, show 250 children were in temporary accommodation in Norfolk and Waveney at the start of last year, this had fallen to 188 midway through the year.

Great Yarmouth had the highest number of children living in temporary accommodation at 82. In Norwich there were 14 and 15 in King's Lynn.

Under the Homelessness Reduction Act, which came into law in April 2018, councils have to help more people at risk of homelessness sooner.

It has led to a huge rise in homelessness applications, which were up 48pc in Norwich in 2018 from 282 to 418. That has sparked an 86pc increase in the number of people placed in emergency accommodation, from 168 to 312 people.

The amount spent on emergency accommodation by Norwich City Council also rose from £233,000 to £377,000 last year.

A spokesperson for the council said: "Our staff work extremely hard to do all that's needed to accurately assess the housing needs of people who often come to us with a range of complex needs.

"Most of the referrals we make go to our regular providers in the city but, in an emergency, we sometimes have to use other options as a temporary solution."

Past Governments have admitted families should not be placed in B&Bs, but have failed to tackle the rise.

Back in 2013 housing minister Mark Prisk said the situation was "unacceptable".

Homeless charity Crisis called for the Government to increase housing benefit to match the "true cost" of renting.

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