Shelter and Church Leader Call on New Minister to Grant Homeless Children’s Christmas Wish

Former Minister, Margaret Curran, pledged, last December, to end the
scandal of children living in B&Bs by this Christmas. But regulations
to ban the use of B&Bs for families are still not in place.

Families housed in expensive B&B accommodation often live in one room,
with no access to cooking or private bathroom facilities. The effects on
children living in these conditions, even in the short term, can be
profound. Children in B&Bs are twice as likely to be admitted to A&E
with burns and scalds because of the conditions they live in.

The clock is ticking to meet the Executive’s own deadline and Shelter
is calling on Malcolm Chisholm to use this opportunity to demonstrate
his commitment to end the use of B&Bs for homeless children this
Christmas, before it is too late.

Dr Alison Elliott, moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of
Scotland said: “A home isn’t just for Christmas but it’s at Christmas
that the plight of homeless children makes a special impact on our sense
of decency. I hope that the minister will make good his predecessor’s
pledge not to use B&Bs to house children at Christmas or any other time
of the year.”

Liz Nicholson, Director of Shelter Scotland said: “No child in 21st
Century Scotland should suffer the indignity of living in B&B
accommodation. Even in an emergency, seven days is the longest any child
should be forced to live in these conditions – anything longer will be a
loophole that effectively means B&Bs are not banned at all. The minister
can really make his mark by backing the pledge made by his predecessor.
But Christmas is getting close, so he must act now to make sure that not
one more homeless child has to spend the festive season in a B&B.”

Notes to editors:

1. During the passage of the Homelessness etc (Scotland) Act 2003,
Shelter successfully lobbied for a clause to be inserted, allowing the
Communities Minister to prescribe which types of temporary accommodation
COULD NOT be used to house homeless families with children. The
intention was to use that power to ban Bed & Breakfast hotels for
homeless families.

2. In December 2003 the then-Communities Minister, Margaret Curran,
pledged that no child would spend Christmas 2004 in B&B accommodation

3. Shelter acknowledges that there are some circumstances where
B&Bs may have to be used in emergencies (e.g. if a fire makes a family
homeless on a Saturday night), but the most any family should remain in
a B&B is 7 days.

4. Regulations have to be placed before parliament before the order
can go “live”. If the Scottish Executive only ensures the regulations
go “live” in December, Local Authorities will not have time to deliver
on them by Christmas.

5. The number of children living in Bed and Breakfast across
Scotland increased by 26% between 31 March 2003 and 31 March 2004, from
185 to 234.

6. Shelter believes everyone should have a home and helps 100,000
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
government to commit to ending bad housing for the next generation of
children. For more information about Shelter visit www.shelter.org.uk

7. Shelter runs Shelterline, supported by Bradford & Bingley, the
UK’s free national housing advice line on 0808 800 4444, and provides
advice online at www.shelter.org.uk/adviceonline

Contact: Kate Seymour
Media Officer
Shelter Scotland
Tel: 0131 473 7177