HUNDREDS of children were homeless or in temporary accommodation in Southampton at the start of the coronavirus lockdown, figures show.

Housing charity Shelter said it is "unbearable" that tens of thousands of children across England had no permanent home when the pandemic took hold, after the national total hit a 14-year high.

Ministry of housing, communities and local government (MHCLG) figures show 311 children from 146 households were housed in temporary accommodation in Southampton at the end of March.

Across England, there were 129,380 children in temporary accommodation on March 31 – the highest number since 2006.

In Southampton, households with children were most commonly in local authority or housing authority stock – 144 families in total.

Overall, 93,000 households were in temporary accommodation across England at the end of March, up by 9% on last year.

Shelter said the pandemic has compounded a pre-existing housing crisis caused by sky-high private rents, housing benefit cuts and a chronic shortage of affordable social homes.

Chief executive Polly Neate said: “It’s unbearable to think that tens of thousands of children were already homeless when the pandemic first took hold.

"What kind of futures will they have when they are spending formative time squashed into temporary homeless accommodation during a national lockdown?

“Life in temporary accommodation is hugely destabilising for children and can disrupt their development."

She urged the Government to invest in social homes for local communities to save a generation from homelessness.

MP for Southampton, Alan Whitehead, said: “After 10 years of Tory government we have a national housing crisis that has been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“This crisis unfortunately has resulted in increased levels of homelessness and families being housed in temporary accommodation.

“This is set to get worse after the end of the eviction ban.

“Many more children and families may find themselves without a home unless the government takes action.”

A spokesperson for Southampton City Council said: “While we work hard to find permanent homes for homeless families, we provide temporary accommodation in the city so that wherever possible people can keep their links to family, community, schooling and medical services.

“For families, we work with partner organisations to provide more good-quality accommodation, and for rough sleepers, we implement dedicated support services and more emergency beds.

“We remain committed to supporting those in need by continuing our outreach work and bidding for extra government funding to expand our services in the future.”