Homelessness ‘getting worse’ as children in temporary accommodation figures rise again
Shelter Scotland has urged the Scottish Government to act quickly to prevent the recent progress on homelessness being reversed after new “shocking” new figures revealed an annual increase in homelessness applications.
Official homelessness and housing options statistics, published in two reports this morning, have shown that Scottish local authorities received 34,972 applications for homelessness assistance between 1 April 2017 and 31 March 2018, 1% higher than the same period during 2016/17.
The number of children in temporary accommodation increased by 557 children (+9%) to 6,615 compared with the same date one year ago – the fourth consecutive annual increase.
The annual increase in homelessness applications follows eight consecutive annual decreases seen in the preceding years. The Homelessness in Scotland: 2017/18 report said the fall in homelessness applications (from a peak of 57,672 in 2008/09 to 34,570 in 2016/17) is likely to be due to the impact of housing options and homelessness prevention strategies adopted by most local authorities over the past few years rather than to changes in the underlying drivers of homelessness.
The rate of reduction in homelessness applications has significantly slowed over most recent years, with 1% increase being seen in the latest year. This suggests that, in its current form, the impact of housing options work is unlikely to lead to further large reductions in applications beyond those already seen, the report added.
“Every 18 minutes a household was made homeless in Scotland last year with 34,972 homelessness applications – more than last year.
“For the fourth year in a row the number of homeless children living in temporary accommodation has risen – up 9% to 6,615. And people are having to stay longer in temporary accommodation with their lives in limbo.”
Graeme Brown added: “This is clear evidence that the good progress we have seen in recent years is now being reversed and bad housing and homelessness is blighting the lives of even more people in Scotland – robbing them of their health, security and a fair chance in life.
“We welcome the focus on homelessness in the last year from the Scottish Government but it is now time for urgent action from all areas of local and national government to work together better to tackle and prevent homelessness in Scotland. We need urgent action and resources now to start making a difference to all those facing or suffering homelessness.”
Jon Sparkes, Crisis chief executive and chair of the Homelessness and Rough Sleeping Action Group in Scotland, added: “While we welcome the Scottish Government’s recent commitment to limit the amount of time people are being forced to stay in the most unsuitable forms of temporary accommodation to seven days, today’s figures are a stark reminder of just how urgently we need action. An average of 36 days is an unacceptable amount of time to be stuck in a B&B.
“Every day we see first-hand the effects of long stays in these types of accommodation; people can become isolated, with little access to vital support services, in sub-standard conditions with nowhere to wash clothes or cook. Long periods living in limbo like this are damaging to people’s mental health and job prospects and make it harder for them to move out of homelessness for good. The new 7-day limit we’re proposing would undoubtedly improve lives, but it would also result in significant savings. Our own recent research has found moving all homeless people out of unsuitable temporary accommodation within this time period could save £29m in public money this year alone.
“Scotland is one of the world leaders in tackling homelessness, and has an opportunity to take a significant step towards ending homelessness for good by making long stays in temporary accommodation a thing of the past. Now is the time to act.”
Commenting on the publication of the latest homelessness and housing options statistics, housing minister Kevin Stewart 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. While the long-term trend shows a decrease in the number of homeless applications – a reduction of 39% between 2008/9 and 2017/18 – these figures are a reminder of why preventing homelessness and transforming temporary accommodation will remain a key priority for government.
“We want time spent in unsuitable temporary accommodation to be as short as possible, especially for households with children or where there is a pregnancy. This is why we introduced a cap of one week for families and pregnant women living in B&B accommodation. We also need temporary accommodation to be of a high standard, with good support, for everyone.
“Last year we formed a Homelessness and Rough Sleeping Action Group to tackle this issue, as well as homelessness and rough sleeping more widely. The group recently set out a number of recommendations on how we can transform the use of temporary accommodation and we will be bringing forwards a programme of work to implement these recommendations, backed up by the £50 million Ending Homelessness Together Fund, to drive change and improvement.
“In addition to this we are committed to delivering more affordable homes across the country, providing the high-quality, efficient and cost-effective homes everyone deserves. Since 2007 we have delivered more than 76,500 affordable homes and are on track to reach our target of at least 50,000 affordable homes over the course of this Parliament. Our ambitious target is backed by over £3 billion investment – the single biggest investment in, and delivery of, affordable housing since devolution.”
Key Points, covering the Homelessness publication:
As at 31 March 2018:-
During 2017/18 (based on new information presented within the publication for the first time using new HL3 placement level data on temporary accommodation) :-
Breaches of the Homeless Persons (Unsuitable Accommodation Order) (Scotland)
Key Points, covering the Housing Options publication: