More than 13,000 Scots households – including 7,510 children – were in temporary accommodation at the end of September last year waiting for housing due to homelessness, according to official figures.
The latest homelessness statistics from the Scottish Government also reveal there were 310 instances of people not being offered temporary accommodation, and 375 breaches of the unsuitable accommodation order – 70 per cent more than 2020.
Homelessness charities have described the figures as a “national disgrace” and said they reveal the scale of Scotland’s housing crisis. Shelter Scotland said that “rapid and significant investment in social housing” is urgently required to address the emergency.
The government update, published this week, provides information on homelessness in Scotland in the six month period from 1 April 2021 to 30 September 2021. The snapshot data shows 13,192 households in temporary accommodation as at 30 September 2021.
Between April and September 2021, 10,620 households entered temporary accommodation while 8,926 exited – a net difference of 1,694 (up 16 per cent) households in temporary accommodation over this period. Glasgow saw the largest spike with 684 more households entering than exiting.
Temporary accommodation includes hostels, B&Bs, local authority houses and housing association stock. Women’s refuge accommodation is commonly used for households with children. The Ferret has previously highlighted concerns over the poor condition of some temporary accommodation including a B&B housing families which was described as “filthy”.
Between April and September 2021, there were 310 instances of households not being offered temporary accommodation. The report said: “These figures are considerably smaller than those reported pre-pandemic, driven largely by the reduction in Glasgow as a result of steps taken to improve access to emergency accommodation, including re-purposing hotels during the pandemic.”
There were 375 breaches of the unsuitable accommodation order (UAO) reported across eight local authorities between April and September 2021. This was an increase of 155 compared to the same period in 2020. Fife accounted for 195 while Glasgow accounted for 110. The Scottish Government’s UAO rule limits the number of days any homeless person should spend in unsuitable accommodation to seven days, apart from in emergency situations.
However, the report said these figures should be treated with caution due to “reporting inconsistencies, due to uncertainty caused by the extension to unsuitable accommodation order legislation in May 2020”.
Shelter Scotland said the figures are a “sharp reminder of the scale of the housing emergency brought about by decades of underinvestment in social housing”. Director of Shelter Scotland, Alison Watson, said: “Home is everything and it is a national disgrace that thousands of households, and more than 7,500 children, are stuck in temporary accommodation. Everyone has a right to a permanent home and temporary accommodation can never be an adequate substitute.
She added: “Increasing the supply of social housing will tackle the root causes of homelessness, ensure nobody needs to be trapped in temporary accommodation and is vital in alleviating poverty. The Scottish Government’s investment plans for social housing are positive, but we can and must go further.”
Matt Downie, chief executive of Crisis, said urgent action from local authorities and homelessness services at the start of the pandemic saw people moved off the streets and into safe accommodation. “There is no doubt that response saved lives, both from covid and the cold. But while there was a decrease in the number of people in the homelessness system overall, the number is still far too high,” he added.
“It’s clear we need to do more to prevent homelessness in the first place. That’s why Crisis strongly supports new measures proposed by the Scottish Government which would ensure people get help earlier, before they reach a point of crisis. It would also see new duties placed on public services to ask about someone’s housing situation, then act to provide help if needed.”
A spokeswoman for Glasgow’s homeless services said the council had seen an increase in requests for assistance linked to both the social and economic impacts of the public health emergency which increased pressure on families – and in some cases additional challenges linked to the end of the furlough scheme.
She added: “A number of pressures led to the increase in unsuitable accommodation order breaches during the period outlined in the data. This includes an overall increase in homeless presentations - some of whom were larger families which presents particular accommodation challenges that can take a little longer to get right for each family’s needs. In addition, these issues were exasperated by supply side issues related to the construction industry.”
Gavin Smith, Fife Council’s housing service manager, said that the pressure for homes is increasing year on year and it increased “significantly” during the pandemic.
"There are currently just under 1,800 households in temporary situations in Fife, waiting for an offer of housing due to homelessness. This is a significant increase on previous years,” Smith said. “930 families are in temporary housing, which is mainly scatter flats in the community, but some are in other forms of accommodation for longer than we would like due to significant pressures on the service.
He continued: "Year on year we are seeing increasing and sustained demand for temporary accommodation with families staying in temporary accommodation longer due to reduced housing opportunities and options. We have increased temporary accommodation by over 250 units since March 2020 and have had to return to limited use of B&B/hotel type accommodation.
"We are working to increase housing opportunities, in difficult circumstances, with a current focus on homelessness and families in temporary accommodation. It is a priority to find permanent homes for the 157 families and 342 children currently living in statutory temporary accommodation as well as others living in insecure housing circumstances that have chosen not to take up temporary accommodation."
Photo Credit: iStock/kieferpix