Article 27 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) sets out that all children have a right to an adequate standard of living.
Welsh Government have recently consulted on how to secure a path towards adequate housing. But, what does the phrase ‘adequate’ mean for children?
Does this mean a warm and dry home?
An affordable home?
A secure home?
A home where you can be private and safe?
A sustainable home?
The United Nations says that an adequate home should be somewhere that offers security, peace and dignity.
With this in mind, I am concerned that too many children in Wales are not enjoying their right to an adequate standard of living.
Most recent Welsh Government data shows (June 2023) that 3,346 children (under the age of 16) are living in temporary accommodation. 974 of these children are living in hotels or B&B’s.
Through my case work, I have heard from families who are living in cramped and overcrowded hotel rooms, with limited access to cooking and laundry facilities. I have heard from children how living in hotels in isolated areas impacts how they get to school, meet friends and play. I have heard how it has affected their mental health too.
I have heard from families who have been issued a ‘No Fault Eviction’ notice. This is when a landlord asks those living in a home to leave. In these cases, parents are taking actions swiftly to secure housing, but too often demand outstrips supply and they cannot secure a property, resulting in the need for emergency accommodation. In one case, a family with a disabled child who required a hoist, had been issued with a No Fault Eviction notice. The family were now in need of accommodation. The local authority had told the parents that they had no properties available.
The local authority confirmed to my office that the family would be told on the day of eviction where they would be accommodated.
I have been contacted by families in need of urgent support to address issues of damp and asbestos in their home. I am increasingly concerned about the environmental conditions that some children are exposed to at home, with research from Shelter Wales highlighting that 1 in 4 people are living in homes that suffer with damp, mould or condensation problems.
Housing concerns rank highly amongst children and young people. In my recent Wales-wide Survey, Ambitions for Wales, which received over 10,000 responses from children, young people and adults, I learned that;
- Almost two thirds of 7-11 year olds (61.1%) worry about their family having enough money and around half (49.7%) worried about having somewhere to live.
- For ages 12-18, 51.3% of children worried about their family having enough money. 24.9% worried about having somewhere to live.
- Concerns were highest amongst parents and carers. 66.5% of parents and carers worried about their children having somewhere to live.
This is why as Wales’ Children’s Commissioner I am committed to shining a light on the reality of children’s housing circumstances, and my team and I will be undertaking a project to do this.
This is part of my wider work to improve standards of living for children. I recently co-hosted a summit for a number of anti-poverty organisations to unify our calls to Welsh Government and to act as one strong voice for change.
It is much harder for children to thrive and reach their potential when they do not have a secure place to call home. It is critical that Welsh Government listen to children’s experiences on this issue to help inform how we improve as a nation.