Increase in children in temporary accommodation in Scotland
The figures published yesterday revealed that between April and September last year there were 6,581 children in temporary accommodation, a 10% increase compared to the same period in 2016.
Local authorities received 17,797 applications for homelessness assistance during the same six month period, 2% higher compared to a year earlier. However when looking over the whole of the last 12 months, there has been a smaller 0.3% (118 applications) annual increase from 34,746 applications in the 12 months to end September 2016 to 34,864 applications in the 12 months to end September 2017.
Adam Lang, head of communications and policy at Shelter Scotland, said the figures should provide a wake-up call for those charged with tackling homelessness in Scotland.
He said: “These figures show that on average between April to September 2017 a household in Scotland became homeless every 18 minutes. This is just not acceptable in 21st century Scotland.
“This must be a wake-up call for local and national government that Scotland’s progress on tackling homelessness has stalled and in some places, is getting worse.
“Shelter Scotland has been warning for some time now that the situation is critical and with these figures revealing another increase in homeless children in temporary accommodation (up 10%) we need urgent strategic action to reverse this trend.
“These are not just numbers, they represent thousands of people’s lives suffering the human tragedy of homelessness. Among them are 6,581 children without a permanent place to call home, which causes significant and lasting damage to their health, schooling and life chances.
“It is now time for leadership and strategic action on homelessness at a local and national level that makes a real difference on the ground for everyone in Scotland at risk of or suffering homelessness.”
Scottish Labour’s housing spokesperson, Pauline McNeill MSP, said: “These are deeply troubling figures that are a mark of shame on the SNP.
“There are more than 6,500 children in temporary accommodation – an increase on last year. It is simply unacceptable that in the 21st century, so many children should be without a permanent home.
“It is deeply concerning that the long term downward trend in homelessness applications is slowing down and there has actually been an increase in applications this year.
“It is clear now more than ever that urgent action is needed if we are to eradicate homelessness once and for all.
“The SNP must use the powers of the Scottish Parliament to put an end to the austerity policies that are driving people into homelessness and start seriously tackling the rough sleeping crisis.”
Caron Lindsay, social security spokesperson at the Scottish Liberal Democrats, added: “It is heartbreaking that the number of children in temporary accommodation is going up.
“Both governments have failed these families – the SNP by failing to build enough houses, the Tories by cruel cuts to social security which have left struggling families at greater risk of homelessness.
“It’s time for the SNP to get to grips with the housing crisis and do what the Lib Dems have been saying and increase the number of houses for social rent.”
Andy Wightman, housing spokesperson for the Scottish Greens, said the figures prove that the situation is a “national disgrace”.
He added: “While these figures indicate that the overall number of applications for homeless assistance has reduced in the last decade, there are signs that we are still a long way off from addressing homelessness.
“It is a national disgrace that Edinburgh has the largest increase of all councils in the number of children living in temporary accommodation – up 10 per cent in the last year. Temporary arrangements can often be inappropriate and can affect the health and wellbeing of children and families.
“It is time for a new approach to tackling homelessness and adopt the Housing First model that has proved successful in New York and Finland.”
Housing minister Kevin Stewart pointed to the work of the Homelessness and Rough Sleeping Action Group which has been formed since the period from which the statistics are taken.
He said: “Everyone deserves a safe and warm place to call home which is why we are committed to ending homelessness and rough sleeping for good.
“It is important to note that these figures are for the six months ending September 2017 – since then we have taken forward significant actions on homelessness. Moreover, in the last decade, and since the same period in 2007, homelessness applications have fallen by over 38%.
“I would hope, and expect, to see improvements as we renew and redouble our efforts. Our Homelessness and Rough Sleeping Action Group is leading the way in recommending the actions and legislative changes needed to tackle homelessness and the use of temporary accommodation, backed by £50 million to drive change.
“Since its first meeting in October, the group has worked at pace to develop actions that can have the most impact – starting with how we tackle rough sleeping this winter. That work now continues as we look to eradicate rough sleeping, end homelessness, and transform temporary accommodation.”