More than 130,000 homeless children will be living in temporary accommodation over the festive period in Britain, the equivalent of five youngsters in every school, according to estimates by the homelessness charity Shelter.
Hotspots include our own area, Aylesbury Vale where numbers rose from six children in 2013 to 125 in 2018, a rise of nearly 2,000%; Basingstoke (up 1,236% to 187); and Wokingham (up 829% to 65).
In south-east England, child homelessness has doubled since 2013.
Compared with the end of 2017, 3,000 more children are believed to be homeless -- as well as the small number of children sleeping rough, this also includes those living in insecure temporary accommodation.
A statement from Aylesbury Vale District Council said:
"Sadly, an increase in the number of number of individuals and families seeking homelessness assistance is not a problem unique to Aylesbury Vale.
"We are however fortunate in Aylesbury Vale to have some of the most secure and modern temporary accommodation in the county and no homeless families are currently accommodated in circumstances where the facilities are shared with other households.
"Currently there are just over 100 households who have been provided temporary accommodation by AVDC, of which 57 are families with dependent children.
"I note the figures quoted in the Guardian article today, but the rise attributed was more to do with the recording methodology in the past and the numbers of children in temporary accommodation has not risen by anything like the amount quoted.
"Indeed, the latest information about the number of households in temporary accommodation in Aylesbury Vale (1.01 per 1,000 households) compares very favourably with the average in England (3.40) and other nearby councils such as Milton Keynes (6.04), South Bucks (2.04) or Bedford (1.88).
"In Aylesbury Vale we have some of the best delivery rates of affordable rented housing in the country and an excellent track record of homelessness prevention; In 2017/18 we prevented homelessness (and the need for temporary accommodation) in around half of the cases we dealt with.
"However, housing and homelessness is a key priority for AVDC and we are bringing forward a fully revised Housing and Homelessness Strategy for 2019-22 which will be considered by council next week.
Shelter’s director, Greg Beales, said: “The number of children hidden away in hostels and B&Bs is enough to make anyone’s heart sink. These are not places for children.
“We hear about cold, damp – even rats. Young children are sharing beds with multiple family members, trying to play in dirty public corridors and having to leave their block in the middle of the night to use the bathroom.”
A report last year by the UK's National Audit Office blamed, among other factors, rises in rental costs and the capping and freezing of housing benefits, which began in 2011, for the rapid increase in homelessness across the country.
It said the government's approach to working with local authorities to tackle the problem was "light touch," adding: "This contrasts with the more interventionist approach that it has taken during previous periods of high homelessness."