The scale of Scotland’s homelessness crisis has been described as “damning” after figures showed the equivalent of 38 children a day were left without somewhere permanent to live last year.
Analysis by the charity Shelter Scotland revealed 14,075 children were in households assessed as being homeless in 2017-18 – the equivalent of six or seven pupils for every school.
On one day in March, 6,615 children were living in temporary accommodation – the fourth consecutive year in which the figure has risen, the charity said. It described the scale of child homelessness as “shocking”, and said not having a permanent place to live can have “drastic” effects on young people.
The Scottish Government said it is working with other parties to implement a range of measures to tackle the problem.
The figures are contained within policy briefings published by the charity.
It found that, on average, households spent 171 days (just under six months) in temporary accommodation last year.
However, homeless families with children were having to spend an average of 25 per cent longer living in temporary accommodation than households without children.
Some 13 per cent of households were in temporary accommodation for a year or longer, the analysis suggested.
One report stated: “In 2017-18, 14,075 children were in households assessed as homeless, this is equivalent to 38 children becoming homeless every day.
“On 31 March, 2018, 6,615 children were living in temporary accommodation. This is the fourth consecutive year that this figure has increased.
“Homelessness can have drastic consequences for children and young people, across almost all areas of their lives; from health to education, homelessness leaves many children unable to realise their potential.
“These effects on a child’s life have been shown to worsen the longer a child is homeless.”
Further analysis showed that 51 per cent of people who have experienced homelessness had no evidence of health conditions relating to drugs, alcohol or mental health – information the charity said could help dispel “the myth that homelessness is largely a substance abuse issue”.
Alison Watson, deputy director of Shelter Scotland, said the “acute shortage of housing” lies at the heart of the problem.
She said: “The sheer scale of homelessness among children in Scotland is damning on our society.
“For the equivalent of a class and a half of schoolchildren to be made homeless every day just isn’t right.
“The fact families with children then have to endure the limbo of temporary accommodation longer than other homeless households just compounds their misery. This has got to stop.”
She added: “Homelessness has a drastic impact on many areas of children and young people’s mental health, physical health, and educational attainment.
“Homeless children are three to four times more likely to have mental health problems than other children, even one year after being rehoused.”
There is a legal requirement on local authorities to find accommodation for people facing homelessness.
Earlier this year, a committee of MSPs called for more action to find permanent homes for homeless families.
The Holyrood housing, communities and local government and committee called on the Scottish Government to adopt a “housing first” scheme, similar to one use in Finland, which prioritises a homeless person’s unconditional right to a permanent home, without them having to go through several levels of temporary accommodation first.
The call came after official figures showed more children were living in temporary accommodation such as B&Bs.
Homelessness had been falling steadily since the start of the decade, but there was a 2 per cent rise in applications for assistance in the six months to September last year to 17,797.
Commenting on the analysis by Shelter, a Scottish Government spokesman said: “We are clear that one person being made homeless is too many, particularly in households which include children. This is why preventing homelessness is one of our key priorities.
“While temporary accommodation provides an important safety net in emergency situations, we want any time there to be as short as possible.
“Last month our Homelessness and Rough Sleeping Action Group, which included Shelter Scotland on its membership, set out a comprehensive suite of recommendations to tackle homelessness and we are now working with local authorities and a range of partners to put these into action.
“This includes a significant £21m investment to support local authorities in achieving a transformation of the system, to support people at times of crisis, while also taking an important step towards transforming the system and offering rapid routes back to settled housing.”