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UN expert praises daily for exposing child homelessness scandal

A United Nations expert has praised a regional daily for exposing a child homelessness scandal on its patch.

UN special rapporteur Professor Philip Alston has described an investigation into the issue by the Manchester Evening News as “eye-opening” and “heartbreaking”.

Last week MEN politics and investigations editor Jen Williams revealed the “Dickensian” conditions faced by homeless children forced to live in hotels and temporary housing, and reported the number of families seeking emergency accommodation from Manchester City Council has increased ten-fold in four years.

Families told how they were forced to live in dangerous hotels alongside criminals, or in rat-infested or damp emergency housing.

MEN scandal

Prof Alston said: “The Manchester Evening News story on the appalling situation in which so many homeless children are forced to live is both eye-opening and heartbreaking.

“In many ways, it just puts a magnifying glass on what is happening in so many towns and cities around England and Wales where council budgets have been stretched to the breaking point.

“The combination of the benefit freeze, the two-child policy, and a system that punishes rather than helps single mothers, along with massive cuts to council budgets, could only ever have resulted in the sort of tragic outcomes described so graphically in the MEN’s story.

“Central government has made huge cost savings, but much of the real cost has simply been transferred to the emergency services and to families and others who just cannot cope.”

Prof Alston’s comments come after he last month published a report into extreme poverty in the UK, arguing “punitive, mean-spirited and often callous” government policies had breached the human rights of citizens.

He concluded that poverty is a “political choice” made by the government, one with ‘Orwellian’ outcomes, in an assessment to be presented to the UN human rights council next year.

Theresa May said she was disappointed by the “tone” of the report, while last week leader of the house Andrea Leadsom suggested the assessment was not true.