More families ‘trapped’ in hostels for the homeless

Childrens health and education suffer when they are in temporary accommodation for long periods. Picture:  Getty Images
Childrens health and education suffer when they are in temporary accommodation for long periods. Picture: Getty Images
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The time homeless families in Scotland spend in temporary accommodation has risen by almost a fifth in the last two years, a charity has revealed.

Shelter Scotland said families with children spent a total of nearly one million days in temporary accommodation in 2015-16.

Alison Watson, the housing and homelessness charity’s deputy director, described the problem as a “major badge of shame for our nation”.

The charity, which used freedom of information requests to local authorities to compile the figures, said the average time in such accommodation has increased by almost 20 per cent to more than 20 weeks.

Scotland’s local authorities provided a total of 3.8 million days of temporary accommodation to homeless families and individuals last year.

Ms Watson said: “Losing your home is a traumatic experience in itself, but then having to spend increasingly long periods of time in temporary accommodation – with no guaranteed standard for the quality of your housing – just heaps more misery on people whose lives are already in ­crisis.

“Children in particular are adversely affected by homelessness and, as recent Scottish Government figures show, the problem is getting worse, not better, with 826 more children in temporary accommodation last year than the year before.

“Families with children are now spending longer in temporary accommodation than in previous years. It is well- known that children’s health and education tend to suffer more the longer they are in temporary accommodation.”

Scottish Government stat­istics show that last year the number of homeless children in temporary accommodation had risen by 17 per cent on 2015 to 5,751.

Launching its third annual Use of Temporary Accommodation in Scotland report, the charity said 13 per cent of families with children were in temporary accommodation for longer than a year compared with 11 per cent of households without children.

The charity said it recognised the Scottish Government’s commitment to build 50,000 new affordable homes by 2021, with 35,000 for social rent, but said this falls short of the minimum of 12,000 a year which were needed.

It recommended Holyrood should support guidance on standards in temporary accommodation to ensure that such stays are a positive stepping-stone out of homelessness, and called for a new national homelessness strategy for Scotland.

Ms Watson added: “Scotland needs a new national homelessness strategy that works across government departments to tackle and prevent what is still a major badge of shame for our nation.”

Alex Rowley, Scottish Labour’s deputy leader, warned that cuts to council budgets and lack of housing could lead to the situation worsening still further.

He said: “There is a growing housing crisis in Scotland under the SNP. Too many families in real need are spending too long in temporary accommodation because of a lack of available housing.

“This problem is only going to get worse because of the SNP’s £170 million cuts to council budgets. Labour will not vote for any SNP Budget that cuts local services like housing provision for homeless families.”

Liz Smith, Scottish Conservative shadow education secretary, said: “Being in temporary homeless accommodation is never a satisfactory situation for a family, especially if there are young children. It ties in with all the evidence which shows that children suffer in these situations

“But I’m not surprised at the figures, considering all the pressures local councils are under.

“There is no ‘silver bullet’ when it comes to housing and planning. There are all sorts of issues when about the use of housing and who it can be allocated to which also need to be looked at.”

A spokesman for the Scottish Government said: “While progress is being made on overall homelessness, Scottish legislation ensures that households with children are placed in temporary accommodation while they wait for appropriate, sustainable permanent accommodation.

“Temporary accommodation is a key part of the safety net of the homelessness ­legislation and ensures all people have accommodation if they become homeless, but we want time in such accommodation to be as short as ­possible.

“We have committed to investing over £3 billion to deliver at least 50,000 affordable homes over the next five years, and by ending Right to Buy we are also protecting up to 15,000 social homes for sale over the next ten years and safeguarding this stock for future generations.”