Almost 13,000 Scottish children were homeless on Christmas Day last year – and the numbers have soared in recent times.
The situation has been branded “disgraceful”, with opposition parties and the national homeless charity calling for more investment in social housing and temporary accommodation.
Homeless applications involving children leapt by more than a fifth since 2015 and have now prompted fears over the impact on the health of youngsters.
A total of 12,858 children were categorised as homeless within the live applications on Christmas Day last year, figures obtained by the Liberal Democrats show.
This is up from 11,358 the previous year and 10,508 in 2015.
Liberal Democrat housing spokesperson Caron Lindsay said: “At this time of year, we treasure having a warm home. These statistics show thousands upon thousands are not so lucky. I am furious that every year we have more children in this situation.
“The Government should be ashamed of itself. When are they going to sort this out by building more homes for social rent?
“Over the last three years the number of children that are listed on a live homeless application on Christmas Day has leapt up by more than 20 per cent. That’s a devastating reality.
“Life on the streets, sofa surfing or in uncertain temporary accommodation can take a huge toll on people’s mental and physical health. It causes real disruption to children’s development too. It’s disgraceful that people in a country as well off as ours are plagued by this problem.
“The SNP must urgently grasp the opportunity to build more social housing and ensure councils have resources to fix poor housing. There are thousands of neglected and vacant properties across the country which, with the right incentives, could be renovated to boost the housing stock. The Conservatives also need to fix those policies putting people at greater risk of homelessness, starting with the benefit freeze and Universal Credit.”
Alison Watson, deputy director of Shelter Scotland, said the charity had “serious concerns” about the number of homeless children in Scotland.
“They show a worsening problem caused by a serious shortage of temporary accommodation and social housing across Scotland,” she said.
“Children being homeless in 21st-century Scotland is a disgrace in itself and with so many being homeless at Christmas, it drives home just how wrong it is.
“Last year in Scotland, 38 children were made homeless every day – more than 14,000. The number of homeless children has risen for four years in a row – so things are getting worse, not better.
“It’s time that promises were made and kept to the children of Scotland, that we will build enough affordable homes to make sure every child has a home not just for Christmas, but permanently.”
In Scotland families have a legal right to temporary accommodation and those with children and pregnant women should only be in B&B, or similar accommodation, for a maximum of seven days, the Scottish Government says.
Housing minister Kevin Stewart said: “Ending homelessness is a priority for this government, backed by a £50 million fund and an action plan to deliver the recommendations from our Homelessness and Rough Sleeping Action Group.”
He added: “Our £3 billion investment in affordable housing means we continue to provide much-needed homes, with 80,000 delivered since 2007.”
The Homelessness and Rough Sleeping Action Group was established in September last year to set out actions to tackle and prevent homelessness. The group recommended changes to the homelessness system, including rapid rehousing as well as homelessness prevention. The Government has a five-year commitment to deliver at least 50,000 affordable homes.