MORE than 600 children will wake up homeless and in temporary accommodation in Dorset this Christmas, a new report by the charity Shelter has revealed.

Across Britain, one in every 111 children is currently homeless, and amid a worsening housing crisis, 2017 has seen the highest numbers of homeless children in a decade.

In the last year alone, 61 per cent of the families helped by Shelter’s frontline services were homeless or on the brink of losing their home. With at least seven families becoming homeless every day in the South West, the charity is calling on the public to support its urgent Christmas appeal.

Poole has the highest number of homeless children in Dorset, with 183 in temporary accommodation this festive season - the fourth highest out of local authorities in the South West.

Bournemouth is just behind Poole, with 182 homeless children in the borough. In Purbeck, there are 55, and in Christchurch and East Dorset there are 37 and 33 respectively.

The figures for North Dorset were not reported as the number was less than five.

Caroline Roundhill, housing strategy and policy manager said: “Temporary accommodation is only ever used as a last resort when we need to provide urgent accommodation to a household. All families with dependent children are prioritised to access appropriate settled accommodation as soon as possible. Each household is allocated an experienced Resettlement Officer to assist them to access this settled accommodation, to ensure any time in temporary accommodation is minimised as far as possible.”

David Barnes, strategic director at Christchurch and East Dorset councils, said: “Fortunately the number of families with children who are homeless in Christchurch and East Dorset remains low, and we continue to work closely with partners to support those who find themselves in this position. We have dedicated roles within the Housing Service to work with families to move them on from temporary accommodation as soon as possible.

He added: “If a family is concerned about their housing situation we would encourage them to contact us as soon as possible so we can put in place measures to prevent homelessness.”

Shelter carried out in-depth interviews with children and their families living in emergency B&Bs and hostels. The charity found every family lived in a single room, and a quarter of families had no access to a kitchen at all. Half of families had to share toilet and bathroom facilities with other households, often with filthy conditions and unlockable doors.

And more than a third of parents had to share a bed with their children.

As a result of these cramped conditions, three quarters of parents felt their children’s mental health had been badly affected. Half of parents reported their children’s physical health had also worsened, with incidents of bed bug infestations and broken heating causing children to fall ill.

Polly Neate, chief executive of Shelter, said the rising number of homeless children was a “national scandal”.

“Many of us will spend Christmas day enjoying all of the festive traditions we cherish, but sadly it’ll be a different story for those children hidden away in cramped B&Bs or hostel rooms. Imagine living in a noisy strange place full of people you don’t know, and waking up exhausted from having no choice but to share a bed with your siblings or parents.”

Mr Barnes said not all homeless children in Christchurch were staying in B&Bs or hostels - many are in either leased, self-contained accommodation or accommodation provided by housing providers in normal houses and flats.

To support Shelter’s urgent Christmas appeal visit or text SHELTER to 70080 to donate £3.