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Homeless children at risk of death this winter, charity warns

01 December 2023

Shared Health Foundation

THOUSANDS of homeless children in temporary accommodation face an increased risk of sudden death this winter, the health charity Shared Health Foundation (SHF) warns.

The charity’s Christmas campaign, Silent Nightmare, calls on the Government to make it a statutory requirement for every child below the age of two to have a cot or Moses basket in which to sleep. There are currently 131,370 children living in temporary accommodation (TA), which is shown to be a contributing factor in 34 deaths from sudden-infant-death syndrome (SIDS) in a three-year period, from 2019 to 2022.

The data were compiled from the National Child Mortality Database, for a report written by the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Temporary Accommodation. Siobhain McDonagh MP, who chairs the group, has written to the Prime Minister declaring the situation unacceptable, and urging action.

“Temporary accommodation is never the ideal solution, but for many families it is the only option,” she writes. “Families having to stay in TA should have the right to a safer, secure and more peaceful experience of their homelessness journey, and yet for far too many it is anything but. Currently, there is no statutory requirement to provide a cot or a Moses basket. . . this truly is a silent nightmare.”

Temporary accommodation can be in B&B accommodation, hostels with shared kitchen and bathrooms, shelters, and private properties rented out to local councils, Children can be found sleeping on sofas, in a parent’s bed, or even in a box, often in damp, cold, poorly ventilated or mouldy conditions.

SHF is urging churches to sign the petition to add their voice to the campaign — “We want them to tell the Government to do something about this” — and also to help in practical ways, a spokesman said on Tuesday.

“They can give money to a local baby-bank which provides cots, or to the Lullaby Trust, which has just launched its Christmas campaign to provide free cots and baby sleeping bags for children in temporary accommodation.”

Its chief executive is Dr Laura Neilson, who works in an A&E department, and is also chief executive of Hope Citadel Healthcare, an organisation that is concerned with health inequalities in ten deprived areas of Greater Manchester (Features, 4 May 2018).



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