Blog: A housing crisis with a human cost
By Alison Watson at Shelter Scotland
Last month, we had a lunchtime screening at Shelter Scotland’s Edinburgh hub, of Ken Loach’s ‘Cathy Come Home’ film, from 1966. In 1968, shortly after this film was aired for the first time, in response to growing outrage at housing conditions and a desire to do something meaningful about it, Shelter Scotland was born.
Now, we publish for the first time, an annual report on data from our Advice Services and it is notable is that almost 50 years later, despite much having improved for the better, having a decent home is still out of reach for thousands across Scotland.
The report covers 16,300 cases that were opened by our advisers across Scotland in 2014. 12,092 of these cases were on our free national helpline – the equivalent of 33 helpline cases opened every day. This figure excludes the 680,000 visiting our Get Advice pages, as well as national statistics showing 10,488 households were in temporary accommodation at the last count, alongside 75,000 households in overcrowded conditions, 940,000 in fuel poverty, and 150,500 on the council waiting lists around Scotland. The sum of all these demonstrates that Scotland is still facing a housing crisis, and this report helps to show us the very human cost of this crisis.
The report offers a further breakdown of the statistical data of those people that came to us for help in 2014, to enable us to better understand the housing related issues people face in Scotland. It looks at the root causes and emerging trends of support that individuals and families suffering at the sharp end of Scotland’s housing crisis require.
- In 2014, 46 per cent of our helpline cases came from people living in the private rented sector, a figure which is particularly significant given that the sector accounted for just 13 per cent of all households in Scotland. It also generates 18 per cent of all homeless applications – further underlining the point that this is a sector long overdue for reform, and providing weight to our current Make Renting Right campaignwhich seeks a private renting sector fit for all.
- Struggling with housing costs is one of the top three problems that clients present with – a figure likely to continue to rise as the full impact of welfare reform becomes a reality.
- Certain demographics are over-represented across our services, including under 35s – again, comparable to their over representation in the homelessness statistics. With the end of the automatic entitlement to housing benefit for 18-21 year olds announced in the 2015 summer budget, we would expect this figure to rise.
We fear that despite Shelter Scotland’s (and other support services’) best efforts, more hardship is on the way and will lead to an even greater demand for our help and severely test our resources. You can download the report in full from our Policy Library.