The tragic meaning of a raw statistic


Picture Wembley Stadium full of 90,000 people.

It helps to grasp the tragic meaning of the following raw statistic: 84,740 households across England were living in ‘temporary accommodation’ at the end of March 2019.*

Remember though this government statistic represents ‘households’ and not individuals, writes Paul Coleman. Of those 84,740 households, 62,010 have children.

So, now, imagine at least four such stadiums, brimming with tens of thousands of children. These children live in a tragically precarious state, not knowing when they will have to move home, leave their schools and say goodbye to their friends.



There will be little or no short-term reduction in these figures; and, as months and years pass, the housing crisis faced by every one of these families threatens to further damage their lives and cramp their futures.

The figures though do beg the question: why are so many families and children forced to live in temporary accommodation across England – supposedly one of the richest and most advanced societies in the world?



What of London? Of those 84,740 households across England, 56,280 households lived in temporary accommodation across London.

Again, this represents ‘households’ and not individuals. Of those 56,280 households in London, some 43,700 were families with children.

It’s a tragedy hidden in plain sight. Why are so many families living in temporary accommodation in London, one of the Earth’s richest 21stcentury cities?



The figures from the Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government also show 17,380 of those 84,740 households were living on a temporary basis in either local council or housing association homes.

In London, 8,160 households were living as ‘temporary accommodation’ households in either local council or housing association homes. Of these, 6,530 were families with children.

Why are so many families and children living ‘temporarily’ – some for up to ten years – in council homes that were originally built to house such families on secure and permanent tenancies?



The government’s bare statistics can only hint at how national politicians and local councillors continue to consistently evade their responsibility to provide these families with decent homes and genuinely affordable secure tenancies.

How do families feel about this situation?

How do the children cope?



* Source: Temporary Accommodation, England, April 2018 to March 2019, Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government.


© Paul Coleman, London Intelligence, 2019

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