The interior of accommodation in Marston Court on Bordars Walk in Hanwell, west London where converted shipping containers have been re-purposed for use as temporary accommodation.Credit:Stefan Rousseau /PA “It is a scandal that a country as prosperous as ours is leaving tens of thousands of families in temporary accommodation for long periods of time, or to sofa surf.“It is essential that the Government invests properly in a major house-building programme and that it sets itself a formal target to reduce the number of children in temporary accommodation.”The repurposing of shipping containers is a recent development in its use as temporary accommodation. Often they are located on “meanwhile sites” – land that is earmarked for future development but currently not in use. However the units are typically one or two-bedroom and small in size, meaning that overcrowding can be an issue.They also often become too hot in summer and too cold in winter, and, as with some office block conversions, antisocial behaviour has been a problem, leaving some parents worrying about letting their children play outside, forcing them to stay inside the cramped conditions instead. Children are being raised in shipping containers and office blocks because councils do not have enough accommodation to house them, an official report has found. Almost a quarter-of-a-million children could be without a permanent home in England and are instead living in “unfit” accommodation – including the likes of office blocks, shipping containers and B&Bs.The findings are published today by the Children’s Commissioner in a report which “shines a light” on the “disruptive and frightening impact on their lives”. Anne Longfield OBE, who took up the role in 2015 has dubbed the situation a “scandal” while children’s charities have described such accommodation as “poky, dangerous conditions [which] belong in a Dickensian novel”.The report, entitled ‘Bleak Houses: Tackling the crisis of family homelessness in England’, estimates that there could be more than 210,00 homeless children in England. Of them, 124,000 are officially homeless and living in temporary accommodation, with around 90,000 children living in ‘sofa-surfing’ families. However, the total figure is likely to be higher due to a lack of data on the number of children placed in temporary accommodation by children’s services. The Children’s Commissioner said: “Something has gone very wrong with our housing system when children are growing up in B&Bs, shipping containers and old office blocks. Children have told us of the disruptive and at times frightening impact this can have on their lives. The report also found that the 23,000 families being housed in temporary accommodation in 2018 were living away from their home council area. Ms Longfield reported that discussions with these children and families revealed how moving away from an area has a “deeply disruptive impact on family life”, with children often moving school, losing touch with their friends and having to pay increased travel costs to stay at the same school. She also expressed concerns about B&Bs being used a temporary accommodation, and creating “intimidating and potentially unsafe environments” for children.The bathrooms are often shared with other residents and vulnerable adults, including those with mental health or drug abuse problems.Of the 2,420 families known to be living in B&Bs in December 2018, a third had been there for more than six weeks – despite this being unlawful.Furthermore, in 2017, around two in five children in temporary accommodation had been there for at least six months, and around one in 20 – an estimated 6,000 children – had been there for at least a year.Almudena Lara, Head of Policy and Public Affairs at NSPCC, said that the data exposes the “awful impact on children when they are forced to live in such unsafe places”.“These descriptions of poky, dangerous conditions belong in a Dickensian novel, but instead they paint a picture of life in the 21st century for many families. Want the best of The Telegraph direct to your email and WhatsApp? Sign up to our free twice-daily Front Page newsletter and new audio briefings. “It should act as a wake-up call to the new government that is it failing to deal with the homelessness that is robbing hundreds of thousands of children of a decent childhood.” In response Cllr Martin Tett, the Local Government Association’s housing spokesman, blamed the “severe lack of social rented homes available” for not being able to place more families in good quality, secure homes.He added that homelessness services were facing a £159million funding gap in 2020/21 and urged the government to use the upcoming Spending Round to give councils the tools they need to prevent homelessness and build infrastructure.Cllr Tom Beattie, Vice Chair of the District Councils’ Network, also called on the government “to provide councils with the flexibilities we need to enable us to prevent it happening in the first place”. A Government spokesman said: “No child should ever be without a roof over their head and we are working to ensure all families have a safe place to stay.“If anyone believes they have been placed in unsuitable accommodation, we urge them to exercise their right to request a review.“We have invested £1.2billion to tackle all types of homelessness, including funding a team of specialist advisors which has, in two years, helped local authorities to reduce the number of families in B&B accommodation for more than six weeks by 28%.” “Homelessness has terrible consequences on a child’s mental and emotional state, and families should not have to endure such a punishing way of life.” Polly Neate, chief executive of Shelter, the homelessness charity, added that the report was “a damning indictment of the government’s catastrophic failure to address the housing emergency”.