1m children stuck in overcrowded accommodation

Shelter wants the Government to update the overcrowding standard which was promised in 2004.

The call is part of a new campaign by Shelter to end overcrowding and includes launching a petition on the No 10 Downing Street website to pressure the Government to update the standard.

At present, under legislation passed in 1935, a family of four living in a one bedroom flat are not classed as living in overcrowded accommodation. The current legal standard also states that living rooms and even large kitchens are acceptable places to sleep, and children under one are not counted as a person.

Shelter director of policy and campaigns, Kay Boycott said: "The welfare of chickens is extremely important. But the Government must not ignore the wellbeing of the one million children forced to live in overcrowded accommodation.

"Living in confined conditions has a devastating effect on family life, especially children’s safety, health and education. Children in overcrowded housing are up to 10 times more likely to contract meningitis than other children. We urgently need a definition which reflects a modern understanding of space and privacy."

Shelter’s campaign has the backing of the Mayor of London Boris Johnson who has pledged to tackle the capital’s overcrowding problem where 330,000 children live in cramped conditions.

He said: "We’re investing over a £1billion a year to increase the number of family-sized affordable homes in the capital and re-writing the design guide to make sure our homes are fit for more than just hobbits. Yet it’s incredible to think that we could, if we wanted to, set standards against legislation passed at time when smoking was advertised as a healthy hobby.

"I applaud the concern of MPs for the welfare of the mighty chicken but I say it’s about time we did the same for the thousands of children in London who are currently living in unfit, cramped conditions and give this legislation a 21st century makeover."

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