Children in overcrowded housing are ten times more likely to contract meningitis - this is just one of the shocking findings from a new report by child poverty expert Lisa Harker for Shelter, which is today warning that the Government is failing a generation of children growing up in squalid conditions.
'Chance of a Lifetime' (1), a report commissioned by the charity from Harker - who has since been appointed as independent adviser on child poverty for the Department for Work and Pensions - uncovers stark evidence of the devastating impact of bad housing on children's life chances.
The report, the first ever comprehensive review of the research, also reveals that the 'housing effect' means children growing up in bad housing have up to 25 per cent higher risk of severe ill-health and disability during childhood and early adulthood (2), and homeless children are up to four times more likely to suffer mental health problems than other children (3).
The report also shows how offending behaviour may be linked to behavioural problems that emerge among children living in poor housing conditions, highlighting evidence that almost half of young offenders have experienced homelessness (4).
Harker is endorsing Shelter's call for 20,000 more social homes to give homeless and badly housed children the chance of a brighter future (5). Shelter is making the call as part of its Million Children Campaign to get the Government to end bad housing and homelessness for the next generation of children.
Lisa Harker said: "Childhood is a precious time when our experiences shape the adults we become - but children who grow up in bad housing are robbed of their future chances by ill-health, educational under-achievement and devastating insecurity."
Graeme Brown, Shelter's director of communications, said: "Children trapped in bad housing have the odds stacked against them. Without the security of a decent home, they lose out on vital schooling, endure mental and physical ill-health and fall into a cycle of social exclusion and poverty.
"The Government must build the homes needed to give the more than one million children in bad housing a fair start in life."
Notes to editors:
1. Copies of 'Chance of a Lifetime' are available at www.shelter.org.uk/chanceofalifetime or from the Shelter press office.
2. 'Home sweet home? The impact of poor housing on health', Policy Press, 1999.
3. 'Housing and health: building for the future', British Medical Association, 2003.
4. 'Psychiatric morbidity among young offenders in England and Wales', Office for National Statistics, 2000.
5. Shelter is calling on the Chancellor, Gordon Brown, to commit the funds to build 20,000 more social rented homes over and above existing plans between 2008 - 2011 in his next Comprehensive Spending Review in July 2007, which we estimate could lift 150,000 children out of bad housing and give them the chance of a brighter future.
6. 'Chance of a Lifetime' was supported by the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, a pioneering funder of developments in contemporary arts, education and social policy.
7. Shelter believes everyone should have a home. We help more than 170,000 people a year fight for their rights, get back on their feet, and find and keep a home. We also tackle the root causes of Britain's housing crisis by campaigning for new laws, policies and solutions. Shelter launched the Million Children Campaign in April 2004 aimed at getting the Government to commit to ending bad housing for the next generation of children. Bad housing robs children of their health, education and a fair chance in life.
8. Spokespeople are available for interview. Shelter's ISDN line is 020 7251 2790.
9. Shelter's housing helpline is supported by Bradford & Bingley and provides free housing advice on 0808 800 4444.
10. For further information about Shelter visit www.shelter.org.uk.
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