THOUSANDS of Scottish children will be homeless this Christmas and face a festive period of “cockroaches, health problems, bad landlords and bitter cold”, a charity has warned.
Latest figures show 5,300 children in Scotland in temporary accommodation, with 75,000 across the UK.
Shelter Scotland fears the number of homeless children is set to rise further as many families are living on a knife edge and struggling to pay their bills.
The housing charity helped more than 1,000 people at risk of being homeless through its helpline last December, and it expects to help more this year.
It is calling for action to improve the temporary accommodation families are forced to live in after they have lost their homes.
Graeme Brown, director of Shelter Scotland, said: “It’s easy to think of homelessness as single people sleeping rough.
“What people don’t often consider is the rising numbers of families who, through no fault of their own, have lost their home and have no permanent roof over their heads.
“For people with children, ‘sofa surfing’ with friends and family just isn’t realistic and the temporary accommodation they are forced to stay in is often unsuitable and poor quality.
“Every day our helpline hears more stories of cockroaches, health problems, bad landlords and bitter cold. It’s a disgrace -–and we need people’s support to do something about it.
“No child should be homeless at Christmas. Every December, Shelter Scotland’s helpline and advisers deal with thousands of people at risk of losing their home. We need everyone’s support in the coming months so our teams can help prevent families from becoming homeless and, if the worst happens, support them to get a decent roof over their heads.”
There were 75,000 children under 16 in temporary accommodation in the UK in June, including 5,300 in Scotland.
That represented a fall of 500 north of the Border compared to 5,800 in June 2011. However, Shelter Scotland says it is expecting a rise in the coming months.
The number of people contacting the charity’s helpline, because they are at risk of homelessness or living in poor housing has risen by 40 per cent in the last two years.
Shelter has also seen 6,779 families made homeless in the first two quarters of 2012.
The charity is warning that thousands of families are “hanging on by a thread” because or rising fuel and mortgage bills, and homelessness is no longer just a threat to the poor, but also to many who have previously been high earners.
Five of the big six energy companies have announced price rises in the past few months, including Scottish Gas, which will put an extra £80 on to its typical annual dual-fuel bill, with an average increase of 6 per cent affecting 1.5 million customers north of the Border from 16 November.
In September, Citizens Advice Scotland (Cas) described the crisis facing thousands of families as “Dickensian”, as rising numbers rely on food parcels and handouts to get by.
The number of people appealing for help through Cas more than doubled in two years to 2,200 in 2011-12.
Scottish Labour’s housing spokeswoman, Elaine Murray said: “This is a shameful statistic that should not be glossed over.”
A Scottish Government spokesman said: “The vast majority of temporary accommodation used in Scotland is of a good standard. However, we are not complacent on this issue.”