‘Bad news’ as homelessness statistics reveal further increase in children living in temporary accommodation

Written by Jenni Davidson on 29 January 2019 in News

The number of children living in temporary accommodation has risen again while overall homelessness has also gone up

Housing graphic - Image credit: Holyrood

The number of children living in temporary accommodation in Scotland rose again last year, while overall homelessness also went up, the latest statistics have revealed.

There was been a four per cent increase in the number of children living in temporary accommodation in Scotland last year compared to a year earlier.

According to the twice-yearly statistics, 6,826 children were housed in this way in September 2018, 245 more than in September 2017 and 839 more than in September 2016.

This compares to an overall 0.5 per cent increase in households living in temporary accommodation.

Commenting on the statistics, Graeme Brown, director of Shelter Scotland, said the figures were “bad news for anyone facing homelessness in Scotland” and alarm bells should be ringing in Holyrood.

Households with children were also more likely to be in temporary accommodation for longer than those without, for 216 days – around seven months – compared to 167 days.

A total of 1,474 households, both with and without children, were in temporary accommodation for over a year.

There were 345 breaches of the Homeless Persons (Unsuitable Accommodation) (Scotland) Order, in the six months from April to September 2018, and 580 over the whole year.

The order limits housing families with children or pregnant women in accommodation such as B&Bs without appropriate living space and bathroom and cooking facilities to a maximum of seven days.

Around two-thirds of the breaches were in Edinburgh, but failures to comply with the rules were also recorded in eight other local authority areas.

As well as an increase in people living in temporary accommodation, there was also increase in levels of homelessness overall.

In the six months from April to September 2018 there were almost 300 more homelessness applications to councils compared to the same six-month period in the previous year, a two per cent increase.

Over the whole year there was a rise of 1.3 per cent in homelessness applications, with 16 out of Scotland’s 32 local authorities seeing an increase.

The greatest increase in the number of applications was seen in North Lanarkshire, where applications up by 23 per cent, while South Lanarkshire saw the biggest decrease, with applications falling by 11 per cent.

The rise in homelessness applications follows a period of decreasing numbers of applications from 2010, which has levelled out since 2015.

Shelter Scotland director Graeme Brown said: “These figures are bad news for anyone facing homelessness in Scotland and if alarm bells weren’t already ringing in Holyrood they should be now.

“Homelessness in Scotland continues to increase – with even more children in homeless temporary accommodation than last year and people having to stay longer in temporary accommodation with their lives in limbo.

“And with hundreds of breaches of the unsuitable accommodation order and households being turned away from temporary accommodation they are entitled to thousands of times, it is clear there is a housing emergency in Scotland.”

He added: “This is more evidence that the good progress on homelessness we have seen in recent years is being eroded and homelessness is blighting the lives of even more people in Scotland – robbing them of their health, security and a fair chance in life.

“We know homelessness can’t be solved overnight and we welcome the recent focus on homelessness from the Scottish Government.

“But it is now time for urgent action from all areas of local and national government to work together better to tackle and prevent homelessness in Scotland.

“The upcoming budget should be seen as an opportunity for the Scottish Government to ensure councils are properly resourced to deal with this unacceptable rise in homelessness in Scotland.”

Labour shadow cabinet secretary for housing Pauline McNeill said the figures were “disgraceful” and should “prompt hard questions inside the government”.

She continued: "It is clear that the systematic problems that lead to homelessness are not being tackled, and that’s before we consider the impact of the SNPs £1.5billion worth of cuts to councils since 2011. 

 "These cuts threaten vital services and mean people fall through the cracks because they aren't getting the support they need. 

 "Later this week the SNP want MSPs to vote for a budget that cut tax for people on £100,000 a year while cutting funding for local services. These figures show that would be completely unacceptable.”

Scottish Liberal Democrat Housing Spokesperson Caron Lindsay said: “It is intolerable that the number of children in temporary accommodation has risen again.

“These statistics show over 800 more children living without the stability of a home to call their own, compared to two years earlier.

“Both governments have failed these families – the SNP by failing to build thousands of homes promised for social rent, the Tories by cruel cuts to social security which have left them at greater risk of eviction and homelessness.

“It’s time they got to grips with the housing crisis.”

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