38 children made homeless every day in Scotland last year, report finds

The true scale of child homelessness in Scotland, the increased length of time spent in temporary accommodation limbo and the health impact of homelessness has been revealed in new analysis from Shelter Scotland.

According to the figures, around 38 children a day were made homeless in Scotland in 2017/18, a total of 14,074 and the equivalent to six or seven children in every Scottish school.

The analysis, published today in three new policy briefings by the charity, also showed that, on average, homeless families with children were having to spend 25% longer living in temporary accommodation than households without children – 201 days compared to 161. The analysis also showed that 13% of households spent more than a year in temporary accommodation.

Alison Watson, deputy director of Shelter Scotland, said: “The sheer scale of homelessness among children in Scotland is damning on our society. For the equivalent of a class and half of schoolchildren to be made homeless everyday just isn’t right.  The fact families with children then have to endure the limbo of temporary accommodation longer than other homeless households just compounds their misery.

“This has got to stop. We must find ways of supplying enough permanent accommodation for homeless families and individuals. At the heart of the problem is the acute shortage of housing. We need to build many more truly affordable homes of the right type in places where people want to live in order to fix our housing emergency.”

Shelter Scotland also highlighted the drastic effects homelessness can have on children and young people across many areas of their lives - from health to education - leaving many children unable to realise their potential. These effects are more profound the longer a child is homeless.

Alison Watson said: “Homelessness has a drastic impact on many areas of children and young people’s mental health, physical health, and educational attainment. Homeless children are three to four times more likely to have mental health problems than other children, even one year after being rehoused.”

Analysis of health and homelessness statistics showed that 51% of people who experienced homelessness did not suffer from drug, alcohol or mental health issues – contrary to popular belief - although these issues were linked to almost half of homeless cases. The analysis showed the inextricable link between bad health and homelessness and how people often had significantly increased interaction with health services prior to making a homeless application. At its most stark, the impact of homelessness on people’s health is that death rates are higher among people who have experienced homelessness and they are more likely to die at a younger age.

On the link between people with complex health issues and homelessness, Alison Watson added: “To have a better chance of preventing homelessness, particularly among people with complex needs, our analysis points to the need for an integrated response from health and housing services to recognise and act upon the very clear warning signs of a person spiralling toward homelessness.”

Linda Mcdonald from Glasgow was in temporary accommodation for three years with her two teenage children. Most of the time in high-rise tower blocks.

Linda said: “I was terrified at the start. I was scared of the unknown. I had my son and my daughter as well and I was trying to do my best for them. I was somewhat of a nervous wreck when things were starting to happen that were out-with my control. I was just caught where I never thought I would be in that situation and it was sheer panic, sheer terror. Eventually when I started to understand what was happening I just said to myself this is how it’s going to be for a while.

“I felt I was quite lucky to have young teenagers. They’re sensible kids. I worry about people coming in with younger children. I’ve seen that happen. I’ve found them sobbing in the foyer and told them that it’s no that bad, that it’s your way of starting again, and you will get by. “

Elaine Armitage from East Kilbride, experienced homelessness with her two children when her marriage broke-up. She had to fight to stay near her children’s schools and her support network.

Elaine said: “I had to get letters from my doctor, from schools, you name it to say that I had to stay in East Kilbride for family support because my son has Asperger’s and it would have been too disruptive to have to try and move him to another area, another school. Plus, I’ve got fibromyalgia and my mum and dad really are my main support for the kids.

“We were in temporary accommodation. It was a roof over my head, but it wasn’t in an area I knew. You didn’t know how long you were going to be there. They couldn’t say a year, six months whatever. You didn’t want to start mucking about with changing schools and things. It was difficult because I couldn’t tell the children when we would move to a permanent home.

“Every time the phone went you’d think ‘oh have they got a house for me…is this going to be it’. I was there for two years and, in the end, I was more or less living out of boxes for those two years because I couldn’t settle. It was very, very, very stressful and very unsettling…the whole experience.  I just never felt at home.”

The Scottish Government said it is working with others to implement a range of measures to tackle the problem.

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “We are clear that one person being made homeless is too many, particularly in households which include children.

“This is why preventing homelessness is one of our key priorities. While temporary accommodation provides an important safety net in emergency situations, we want any time there to be as short as possible.

“Last month our Homelessness and Rough Sleeping Action Group, which included Shelter Scotland on its membership, set out a comprehensive suite of recommendations to tackle homelessness and we are now working with local authorities and a range of partners to put these into action.

“This includes a significant £21 million investment to support local authorities in achieving a transformation of the system, to support people at times of crisis, while also taking an important step towards transforming the system and offering rapid routes back to settled housing.”

Shelter Scotland’s new policy briefings are available here:

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