Over 5,000 children living in temporary accommodation in NI

by | Jun 13, 2024 | News

Over 5,000 children living in temporary accommodation in NI

Today, the Department for Communities published the latest homelessness statistics for Northern Ireland. The figures show that in April this year there were 5,106 children living in in temporary accommodation. The largest proportion of these children were aged 0-5 (40%).

The number of households living in temporary accommodation has also increased. From January 2019 to March 2024, this increased by 132% from 2,065 households to 4,784. Over the same period the number of children living in temporary accommodation has increased by 110%.

This in turn has led to a significant increase in the amount spent on temporary accommodation provided by the private rented sector and in B&B and hotels. This has risen by 495% from £5.8 million in 2018/19 to £34.5 million in 2023/24 and does not include accommodation provided by the voluntary sector funded through the Supporting People Programme.

At the same time that the pressure on the housing and homelessness system continues to ratchet up. The Department for Communities budget is squeezed despite greater levels of need for services. With a cut of 38% to the Department’s capital budget leading to a cut of 27% to the Social Housing Development Programme in 2024/5 when compared to 2023/4, the number of social housing new starts the Department can fund has collapsed by 73% from 1508 in 2023/4 to only up to 400 today.

Commenting on the continued upward trends in Northern Ireland’s homelessness figures, Nicola McCrudden, Chief Executive of Homeless Connect said:

“The homelessness crisis continues and is particularly telling when we are seeing thousands of children and families without a home of their own. Living in accommodation that is not permanent is disruptive for schooling and education and has impacts for mental health and wellbeing. No one can underestimate the importance of having a secure, safe and affordable home.

We are really concerned that the budget allocations for 2024/5 are only going to make matters worse. Staff who work in homelessness services are doing the best they can to support people through what is an incredibly difficult time.

We would love to see more people moving into new social tenancies, but unfortunately an increasing number of people are having to wait for lengthy periods of time, often years, in temporary accommodation.

It is a basic fact that you cannot reduce or prevent homelessness without an adequate supply of housing. We need to properly investment in new social housing provision as without it homelessness will continue to get worse and no one, including our elected representatives, want to see that happening.

At a time when it would be beneficial to increase spending on homelessness prevention, the Housing Executive is having to divert spending towards paying for expensive private sector temporary accommodation. According to a recently published Assembly question, the amount of money spent on homelessness prevention has fallen from an already low £5.33 million in 2022/3 to £4.65 million in 2023/4, a cut of 13%. The Department’s Equality Impact Assessment on the budget allocations outlines that this figure may be reduced even further this year due to the pressure on the Departments budgets, with cuts focused on third sector organisations and ‘longer term preventative work’.

Ms McCrudden continued “While it is acknowledged that the Executive faces major financial pressures, it has to be recognised that the budgetary choices taken will negatively impact some of the most marginalised and disadvantaged people in society, those experiencing or at risk of homelessness. We strongly urge the Executive to reconsider.”

To join or support Homeless Connect on their journey to end homelessness in Northern Ireland visit www.homelessconnect.org or follow Homeless Connect on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.

Notes

  1. Homeless Connect is the representative body for the homelessness sector in Northern Ireland with member organisations providing homelessness services including temporary accommodation, street outreach, day centres and floating support. Visit homelessconnect.org for more information.
  2. You can read the Department for Communities Homelessness Bulletin and the accompanying data tables here.
  3. In April 2024, 4,784 households were recorded as living in temporary accommodation. In January 2019 it stood at 2,065. See table 3.5.
  4. In April 2024, 5,106 children were living in temporary accommodation. In July 2023, this figure had stood at 4,569, while in January 2019 it stood at 2,433. See table 3.4.
  5. You can find the spending on temporary accommodation for 2018/9-2022/3 in this FOI response. The figure for 2024/5 was released in a response to the following Assembly Question: AQW 12681/22-27.
  6. You can find the details of spending on homelessness prevention in an answer to this Assembly Question. The relevant section of the Department for Communities EQIA can be found on pp55-6 of the consultation document.
  7. For the geographical breakdown of homelessness presentations by council, see table 1.3.

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