Homelessness in Scotland: Sending family from Edinburgh to Coventry is an indictment of our society's values – Scotsman comment

Scottish Government’s decision to cut £205 million from affordable homes fund was a cruel one
Everyone should have a place they can call home (Picture: Yui Mok/PA)Everyone should have a place they can call home (Picture: Yui Mok/PA)
Everyone should have a place they can call home (Picture: Yui Mok/PA)

Any society worthy of the name has to ensure all its members have at least a basic standard of living. And one of the most basic requirements is a place to call home.

There is, thankfully, a broad political consensus in Scotland that homelessness is a blight on people’s lives that must be eradicated. However, that near unanimity has not yet produced the desired outcome.

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Now it has emerged that, such is the depths of this crisis in Edinburgh, the council is sending people to temporary accommodation hundreds of miles away. In August last year, the local authority sent a family of two to Durham by taxi, while a family of six drove 300 miles to Coventry for a place to stay.

Matt Downie, of homelessness charity Crisis, said these cases were “symptomatic of a homelessness system under extraordinary pressure” as the ongoing cost-of-living crisis sees “more people who were previously comfortable beginning to struggle, and more people who were just about getting by being pushed into homelessness”. In a recent briefing for MSPs, the charity warned that people were being told by Edinburgh Council that there was “no accommodation, of any kind”.

Both families involved were able to return to Edinburgh when homes became available, but the fact that they had to be sent so far away is a measure of the seriousness of the housing crisis and also an indictment of the help that is available to some of our poorest members of society.

They are people for whom family and social networks are more important than most. Even if people do not have to move quite so far away from their hometowns, they can still lose much-needed support from relatives and friends.

Housing is a growing problem in Scotland, particularly in Edinburgh. Yet in the recent draft Budget, the Scottish Government decided to cut funding for affordable homes by £205 million. It faced some tough choices – partly because of its own mistakes – but, with the cost-of-living crisis continuing to bite, that was a particularly cruel one.

This issue, which looks unlikely to be resolved anytime soon, should be much higher up the political agenda.



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