Friday, September 15, 2006

impact of bad housing

What does bad housing mean for children? The main conclusions of the Shelter Report 'Chance of a lifetime: The impact of bad housing on children’s lives' indicates a catalogue of 'robbed' future chances - due to ill-health, educational under-achievement and insecurity.

There is a 25 per cent higher risk of severe ill-health and disability, during childhood and early adulthood.

Overcrowded housing results in a tenfold greater chance of contracting meningitis, increased risk of tuberculosis and other respiratory problems such as asthma. Consequently many of the children lose sleep, have restricted physical activity and lose out at school. Overcrowding has also been seen as to cause slow childhood growth, that later increases the risk of coronary heart disease.

50% of childhood accidents can be attributed to housing conditions. There is also a greater risk of domestic fire in poor housing.

There is also greater chance of mental health and behavioural problems.

Children who are homeless are three to four times more likely to have mental health problems than other children. Anxiety and depression are linked to overcrowded and unfit housing.

Lower educational attainment, greater likelihood of unemployment, and poverty are also projected outcomes.

School absenteeism is two to three greater in homeless children due to the disruptive lifestyle caused by a life in temporary housing. Those in unfit homes suffer greater illness and consequently often miss school. Overcrowding is linked to childhood developmental problems, and homelessness to poor communication skills. The aggression and hyperactivity exhibited by some homeless children results in low academic achievement.

Opportunities in adulthood are therefore compromised.

The resultant ill health and poor education inevitably lead to increased risk of unemployment or low-paid jobs. Leisure and recreation possibilities are lessened due to poor health and no money. Behavioural problems associated with bad housing can later become offending behaviour. According to one study, almost half of the young people who had offended, had been homeless.

The Government has pledged to end child poverty by 2020 to improve life outcomes for children in areas such as health, safety, enjoyment, achievement and economic well-being, but little attention has been paid to the impact of bad housing on children’s lives.

Currently there are more than one million children living in bad housing in England. They live in homes that are so small that there is insufficient space to sleep comfortably, to enjoy normal standards of hygiene and privacy, or even room to do their homework. They also live with the constant threat of eviction, and are repeatedly moved from one temporary home to another, with no chance of permanency or security. Many of these homes are dilapidated, damp and dangerous. The results of this housing crisis, are poverty and unequal life chances that will persist throughout the lives of the children who suffer it.

One of Shelter's proposals is that an additional 20,000 affordable social rented homes should be built each year, above and beyond existing plans. This is to address urgent housing need and to meet the target to halve the numbers of people living in temporary accommodation by 2 010. Surely this is too little too late, it would still leave half a million children living in dire housing conditions that will blight their future lives.

Something Better Change.

Ref: Chance of a lifetime
The impact of bad housing on children’s lives

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