Homeless assessments fall but children in temporary accommodation numbers rise

youth-homeless-bannerThe number of children in temporary accommodation in Scotland has increased since last year but the number of people assessed as homeless has fallen, new figures have revealed.

According to quarterly data from the Scottish Government, there are now 4,923 children in temporary accommodation - an increase of 8 per cent since 2014.

The number of people overall in temporary accommodation such as bed and breakfasts and budget hotels has also increased by 2 per cent from 10,328 in 2014 to 10,567 in 2015.

However, the statistics show that there were 8,800 homeless applications made between July and September 2015, and 7,400 cases were assessed as homeless or threatened with homelessness, a 4 per cent fall since the same period last year.

The figures also show that while there has been a rise in the number of families in temporary accommodation, the number of families in unsuitable temporary accommodation like bed and breakfast has fallen, and the number moving into settled accommodation has been maintained.

Commenting on the latest statistics, the Chartered Institute of Housing in Scotland said the fall in homelessness applications masks the scale of the problem in the private rented sector.

Director Annie Mauger said: “Although numbers declined slightly in the third quarter of 2015, the number of homelessness applications from people previously living in the private rented sector is still more than the number from people who previously lived in local authority, housing association and owner occupied homes combined.

“This is perhaps unsurprising given the rising percentage of Scottish households living in the private rented sector. But as the proportion of people living in private rented homes rises, we need to redouble our efforts to tackle the root causes of homelessness in this sector.”

She added: “We are also very concerned about the increase in the number of households and children in temporary accommodation. This type of accommodation can be very poor quality and highly unsuitable, especially for families.

“Ultimately, the best way to ease this pressure and to start to get to grips with homelessness is to build many more genuinely affordable homes.”

The Scottish Federation of Housing Associations (SFHA) said that in order to solve the housing crisis, ministers must commit not only to increasing the amount of affordable housing but also to increasing the housing grant rates.

SFHA chief executive, Mary Taylor, said: “While we welcome these statistics which show a decrease in the number of people assessed as homeless, and we hope this downward trend continues, more needs to be done. We are calling on all political parties to commit to ending the nightmare of homelessness by properly funding an ambitious housing programme to deliver 12,000 new affordable good quality homes over the term of the next parliament and increase the grant rate.

“A warm, energy efficient, good quality affordable home is vital for a person’s physical and mental health and life chances.”

Graeme Brown, director of Shelter Scotland, said it is “a badge of shame” and “extremely concerning” that the number of homeless children in Scotland has risen for the second time in six months.

Mr Brown said: “Only this week Shelter Scotland highlighted the plight of around 5,000 children who experienced over a million days of homelessness between them in 2014/15. This is simply not good enough in 21st Century Scotland.

“Our report, along with today’s damning statistics, is further evidence of Scotland’s housing crisis and why we need political commitment to a major house building programme to deliver 12,000 new affordable homes, to ensure that no child spends longer than necessary in temporary accommodation.”

Graeme Brown added: “We welcome the news that there has been an overall reduction in the number of homelessness applications and assessments across the country. This good work can only continue by ensuring that homelessness services across Scotland are properly funded and supported to meet the needs of some of the most vulnerable people in our society.

“While we recognise the increasing financial pressures on local authorities, we would nevertheless call on them to protect and prioritise funding of homelessness service provisions.”

The Scottish Conservatives have said a failure by the Scottish Government to build new houses has contributed to the issue of people and families placed in temporary accommodation.

Scottish Conservative housing spokesman Alex Johnstone MSP said: “It’s really disappointing to see the SNP have made no effort in reducing the amount of people in temporary accommodation.

“It’s particularly worrying to see the amount of children staying in temporary accommodation because B&Bs and budget hotels are not suitable and can affect a child’s health and wellbeing.

“Some families and individuals can be in these settings for long periods of time, a situation which is unacceptable.

“It’s now time for the Scottish Government to work more closely with councils to make sure temporary accommodation is available to those who need it, and of an acceptable quality.

“The SNP’s failed housing policy is having a tremendous effect on those who just want to get on in life and live in decent housing.

“They’re simply not building enough homes for those in dire need.”

Housing minister Margaret Burgess has written to the local authorities where there has been a rise in the use of families in temporary accommodation. The Scottish Government wrote to local authorities late last year on the use of B&B accommodation for households containing children and pregnant women. All local authorities are seeking to minimise the use of B&Bs.

Mrs Burgess said: “We are doing everything we can to make sure everyone has access to a warm and safe place to stay, and I welcome the decrease in the number of households being assessed as homeless. We have ensured the majority of temporary accommodation is good quality, well-managed social housing which is of the same standard as permanent accommodation.

“However, we want to understand the reason why there has been a rise in the use of temporary accommodation for households with children, and I have written to local authorities on this basis. We are committed to working together with local authorities and partners in the best interests of all households looking for permanent accommodation.

“We have taken action to address housing need by exceeding our housing target of building 30,000 affordable homes within the current parliamentary term, started a new generation of council house building and by stopping the right to buy are protecting our social housing stock. In addition we have committed to deliver 50,000 more affordable homes over the next five years, 35,000 of which will be for social rent.”

Scottish Housing News is to continue its special homeless series to highlight the important and innovative work carried out every day by charities across the country. For more information or to take part click here.

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