Ministers must tackle housing crisis to give children best start
Over the next five years, this magazine and its readers will be asked to consider what they would do to help improve the life chances of Kirsty, the Holyrood baby.
The first thing Kirsty needs is a safe, secure and affordable home. Without a decent home, Kirsty is unlikely to have the same level of educational attainment as her peers, as children in temporary accommodation can miss up to 55 school days a year.
Without a warm and safe home, Kirsty will also have poorer health outcomes over her lifetime, because children in cold homes are twice as likely to suffer respiratory problems.
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Sadly, far too many people across Scotland today don’t have access to a secure home of their own. There are currently 150,000 people on waiting lists. Last year, there were nearly 36,000 housing applications and tomorrow nearly 5,000 children will wake up homeless.
Last year, children in Scotland spent nearly a million days in temporary accommodation. These are shameful statistics for Scotland in 2016 and they are the result of the failure of successive governments to meaningfully tackle our housing crisis.
But it is not just children who are suffering in this crisis. Recent research carried out by YouGov on behalf of Shelter Scotland showed more than one million (53 per cent) 18-44 year olds in Scotland say housing problems are forcing them to put their lives on hold.
The lack of secure and affordable housing is cited as a key reason for people finding it much harder to achieve the life milestones taken for granted by previous generations. A good home is central to our wellbeing, both individually and collectively as a nation.
It doesn’t have to be this way. There are clear actions on housing and homelessness that our politicians can take now to improve the fortunes and life chances of babies like Kirsty.
By choosing to prioritise homes during this parliament, our MSPs and ministers can ensure a better future for Kirsty and for the thousands of people across Scotland who are having to put their lives on hold as a result of our housing crisis.
Adam Lang is head of communications and policy at Shelter Scotland