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.

The figure was reached using data from local authorities that revealed the number of homeless children since the start of 2017. A breakdown of the data showed there have been 90 homeless children in Weymouth and Portland, 55 homeless children in the Purbeck area and 25 homeless children in West Dorset in 2017.

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 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.

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.

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.”

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

Councillor Gill Taylor, briefholder for Housing, said the council is aware of the impact B&Bs can have on homeless children and explained that the vast majority of homeless people within the borough are in private accommodation.

She said: “We have got some children in B&Bs but that is not at all ideal.

“B&Bs aren’t suitable accommodation for homeless people with children. We understand the impact it has on them, but they are there only a matter of weeks not in the long term.”

Cllr Taylor said the root of the problem in Weymouth and Portland is that there isn’t enough property available for homeless people.

She said: “There is a general increase in homeless and it will be interesting with the homelessness reduction act coming in because it will significantly impact the way we go forward. The numbers are gradually going up, we are no different from the rest of the country. It isn’t acceptable but the only way around it is to build more houses.

“We are bending over backwards to get these people sorted.”