THOUSANDS of families with children in Scotland are living in temporary accommodation – and the number has risen in the past year, official figures reveal.
There were just over 10,300 families in temporary homes – which includes bed and breakfast, council hostels and women’s refuges – with more than 4,500 children living in such conditions, at the end of September 2014.
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In its own separate report, homelessness charity Shelter Scotland said one in ten households – equivalent to more than 2,000 families – housed in the makeshift accommodation were there for more than a year.
The findings came more than two years after Holyrood passed flagship legislation aimed at effectively ending homelessness, with a legal entitlement for anyone finding themselves homeless through no fault of their own to settled accommodation.
Ministers were yesterday accused of using temporary accommodation as a “leaning post” to meet government targets on homelessness.
Shelter said Scotland’s homelessness problem was caused by a “major shortage” of social housing, with high unemployment, loss of income and people being forced to flee domestic violence situations also contributing to it.
There were 2,681 households with children in temporary homes such as bed and breakfasts, council hostels and refuges, an increase of 24 households or 1 per cent compared with the previous year.
The total number of individual children living in interim accommodation stood at 4,586 – a figure branded “appalling” by opposition politicians.
Liberal Democrat MSP Jim Hume blamed the problem on a lack of social housing, which he said had declined during the SNP’s seven-and-half years in power.
He said: “These figures are a stark reminder that you don’t have to live on the street to be homeless. It’s appalling that over 4,500 children are living in temporary accommodation, which can include not only local authority housing but bed and breakfasts or hostels.
“Temporary accommodation cannot become a leaning post in efforts to meet homelessness targets. The development of social housing has continued to decline on the SNP’s watch and completions are now at one of the lowest levels in ten years.”
Shelter said growing numbers of Scots had to live in makeshift homes, with the average stay in temporary accommodation for homeless households standing at around 18 weeks, and one in four households spending more than six months there – equivalent to around 5,500 people.
The charity said the findings were based on figures released under freedom of information laws, as it warned of potential damage to the health of families left without permanent homes.
Shelter Scotland director Graeme Brown said: “Long stays in temporary accommodation are detrimental to people’s health and wellbeing, particularly children, so it is very worrying that one in ten homeless households spent more than a year without a home.”
Meanwhile, the figures from Scotland’s chief statistician showed that councils received 9,059 applications for homelessness assistance from July to September last year – a fall of about 300 compared to the same period in 2013.
In addition to the fall in applications, it found that the number assessed as homeless, or likely to become homeless within two months, fell by 3 per cent in a year to 7,375.
Housing minister Margaret Burgess said homeless applications to Scotland’s councils had fallen by 36 per cent since 2008-9 – the first full financial year after the SNP came to power.
She said: “These latest statistics, which illustrate the continued falls in homelessness across Scotland, are to be welcomed. It is also encouraging that since 2008-9, homeless applications have fallen by 36 per cent.
“We are working closely with local authorities and their partners to prevent homelessness, increase the number of affordable homes and address the issue of empty homes.”