100,000 children face spending Christmas in temporary accommodation
More than 100,000 children in England face spending Christmas in temporary accommodation after a sharp annual rise in homelessness, official figures showed.
The number of households without a permanent roof over their heads reached 68,560 at the end of September, up 13% in a year.
Among those affected were 103,430 children and unborn babies, according to the quarterly survey for the Department for Communities and Local Government.
There was also a 45% rise in families with children living in bed and breakfast-style accommodation to 3,000 - with the number stuck there for over six weeks more than doubling to 960 (up 105%).
More than a quarter ( 27%) had been placed outside their local area, up 20% on a year ago and more than three times the number five years ago.
Homelessness charities blamed welfare cuts and the squeeze on local government funding for the "worrying" increases.
Shelter chief executive Campbell Robb said the figures were "a heart-breaking reminder that thousands of families will wake up homeless this Christmas morning, many hidden away in a cramped and dingy B&B or hostel room, sometimes miles away from everyone and everything they know".
Appealing for more public help, he said: "With the double blow of cuts to welfare and a chronic lack of affordable housing, many more families are facing a desperate battle to keep a roof over their heads."
Youth homelessness charity Centrepoint said its own surveys suggested there would be as many as 15,000 homeless young people across the UK this Christmas.
Head of public affairs Paul Noblet said: "This is a hugely worrying increase but it is not surprising.
"At Centrepoint we have seen the human cost as the financial pressures on local authorities, huge rent increases, and stubbornly high levels of long-term youth unemployment translate into more and more young people struggling to find a place to live.
"Today's figures should act as a spur for Government action. The country desperately needs more truly affordable homes, and ministers must look again at the effects that current plans for housing benefit will have on potential levels of youth homelessness and rough sleeping."
Shadow housing minister John Healey said: "Today's figures show yet another rise in homelessness under the Tories. Government ministers should be ashamed.
"It's no merry Christmas for the thousands of families without a home of their own this winter, including the 100,000 children forced to live out of hostels or other temporary accommodation.
"This situation is unacceptable and it's unnecessary. Ministers must act."
Communities minister Marcus Jones said the Government would provide a £5 million fund to the 25 local authorities facing the greatest housing pressures as part of efforts to curb the rises.
The Government will also explore options "including legislation" to stop people becoming homeless, DCLG announced.
Mr Jones said: "T he number of households living in temporary accommodation is still significantly lower now than the peak in 2005, but we recognise that many councils still face significant challenges.
"This funding will help alleviate some of the immediate pressures and allow those councils that most need it the breathing space to innovate and focus on preventing people becoming homeless in the first place."
He went on: "Statutory homelessness acceptances are now less than half the 2003-04 peak but we are determined to ensure that anybody who needs help gets it.
"We have made over £500 million available since 2010, which has prevented nearly a million people becoming homeless. We are committed to build on this over the next four years and work with the sector to do all we can to prevent homelessness.
"The protection of the Homelessness Prevention Grant in the Local Government Finance Settlement shows our continued commitment to tackling homelessness."
Councils will be able to bid for up to £200,000 each from the fund.
Those eligible are: Barking and Dagenham, Barnet, Birmingham, Brent, Bromley, Brighton and Hove, Croydon, Ealing, Enfield, Hackney, Hammersmith and Fulham Haringey, Hounslow , Islington, Kensington and Chelsea, Lambeth, Lewisham, Luton, Newham, Redbridge, Southwark, Tower Hamlets, Waltham Forest, Wandsworth and Westminster.
DCLG said central government funding for homelessness programmes will total £139 million over the next five years.