Hundreds of St. Helens children need support this Christmas

HUNDREDS of children in St Helens are being cared for by the council, figures show, while more than 100 families with children face homelessness this Christmas.

While many of us will be tightening our belts this winter, charities are urging the public to give what they can – as thousands of young people across the country face a tough Christmas ahead.

Department of Education figures show that 470 children were being cared for by St Helens Borough Council at the end of March.

Of these, 319 (68%) were able to spend Christmas with a foster family and 48 (10%) in sheltered housing units, children’s homes or semi-independent accommodation.

The same data shows that 194 children under the age of 10 were cared for by the council, and seven unaccompanied asylum seekers.

Imran Hussain, director of policy and campaigns at Action for Children, said Christmas can be “lonely and isolating” for foster children.

“Away from their families and their friends, often in places far from home; many will not have happy memories of Christmas,” he added.

Nationwide, more than 80,000 children are cared for by their municipalities.

Two-thirds find themselves in the care of the council after suffering abuse or neglect – and figures from the DfE show 364 have been affected in St Helens.

Mr Hussain continued: “The best way to ensure more children have safe and happy Christmases is to fix the care system.

“We need a big shift from a system designed to place children into care, to a system designed to prevent children from having to be in care in the first place,” he added.

This Christmas, Action for Children is asking people to donate a healthy breakfast, warm clothing or a Christmas gift to a vulnerable child as part of their Secret Santa campaign.

Across the country, many children are also spending the holiday season with the prospect of being homeless or in temporary shelters.

The latest available figures from the Department for Leveling Up, Housing and Communities show that 24,290 households with children received homelessness chores between April and June across the country – including 107 in St Helens.

Kiran Ramchandani, director of policy and external relations at the charity Crisis, said: “Every child should have a safe place to call home.”

“As the cost of living continues to rise rapidly and there is a lack of affordable housing, many families could be forced into homelessness and live in temporary shelters for years.”

Nationwide, more than 120,000 children were in emergency shelters at the end of June, including 46 in St. Helens.

Ms Ramchandani called on the government to increase housing benefits and provide “truly affordable” housing or otherwise risk forcing more families into homelessness this winter.

Crisis will support the homeless over the Christmas period by providing shelter, hot food and company at their Skylight centers across the UK.

A spokesman for the Department of Education said every child “deserves a safe home”.

They continued, “Local authorities have a responsibility to provide appropriate care to all children in their care.”

“We’re supporting them by investing millions to provide quality, safe homes for children — and removing barriers, reducing adoption delays and improving foster parent recruitment,” they added.

https://www.sthelensstar.co.uk/news/23206556.hundreds-st-helens-children-need-support-christmas/?ref=rss Hundreds of St. Helens children need support this Christmas

Brian Ashcraft

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