Thousands of children growing up in shipping containers, office blocks and B&Bs

Posted August 22, 2019

Anne Longfield, the Children’s Commissioner for England, has published new research which shines a light on the thousands of children growing up in homeless families. The report, “Bleak houses: Tackling the crisis of family homelessness in England”, reveals the terrible reality of how some children are living in converted shipping containers and office blocks, and B&Bs, in cramped conditions, often miles away from their schools.
The report shows that while official statistics show 120,000 children in England are living in temporary accommodation, this does not include the hidden homeless who are ‘sofa-surfing’, often in very cramped conditions. New analysis conducted for the Children’s Commissioner for England estimates that in 2016/17 there were 90,000 children living in sofa-surfing families.

The Children’s Commissioner is also warning that official figures fail to capture a small but highly vulnerable group of homeless children who have been placed in temporary accommodation by children’s services rather than by the council’s housing department. This includes families who have been deemed to have made themselves “intentionally homeless”, and those with no recourse to public funds as a result of their immigration status. There is no publicly available data on how many families are being housed in this way.


Today’s report publishes national estimates of the numbers of children living in temporary accommodation for extended periods, showing that the label “temporary” is sometimes anything but. This analysis suggests that in 2017 around 4 in 10 children in temporary accommodation – an estimated 51,000 children – had been there for at least 6 months. Furthermore, around 1 in 20 – an estimated 6,000 children – had been there for at least a year.

Download the report now