Exclusive:Homeless families in Edinburgh sent hundreds of miles to England for accommodation

The city council spent almost £500 transporting one household to Durham in a taxi

Homeless families in Edinburgh have been forced to travel hundreds of miles to England to secure temporary accommodation, with council bosses spending almost £500 on a taxi to send one household to Durham.

Another family of six, which included school-age children, was forced to drive some 300 miles to Coventry to get somewhere to stay. Charity bosses said the cases were “symptomatic of a homelessness system under extraordinary pressure”.

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In a response to a Freedom of Information request in December, Edinburgh Council said there were two occasions in which homeless households were sent to England to source temporary accommodation in the previous 12 months.

One family was sent on a £500 taxi journey from Edinburgh to Durham. Picture: GettyOne family was sent on a £500 taxi journey from Edinburgh to Durham. Picture: Getty
One family was sent on a £500 taxi journey from Edinburgh to Durham. Picture: Getty

It is understood both cases occurred in August, during the busy festival period in which accommodation is booked up and prices rocket. A two-person household was sent in a taxi to Durham, with the council spending £486 transporting them there and back again, once accommodation became available in Edinburgh.

Meanwhile, a family of six used their own car to drive to Coventry. The council said this was the closest suitable accommodation.

It is understood council officials use an online booking platform to search for accommodation vacancies, and go with the closest available with the required room sizes.

The council said both households were brought back to Edinburgh quickly as accommodation in the city was secured. The accommodation in England cost the local authority £2,948.83 in total.

Edinburgh declared a housing emergency last yearEdinburgh declared a housing emergency last year
Edinburgh declared a housing emergency last year

Kevin Lang, leader of the Liberal Democrat group at Edinburgh Council, said: “It is no secret that Edinburgh has huge issues when it comes to housing, and these revelations are a shocking indictment of that emergency. A lack of availability, skyrocketing prices and poor-quality housing are all playing a part, none of which have been made easier by the Scottish Government’s ruthless decision to slash the housing budget.

“Homelessness is high and construction starts for new social housing have plummeted. The government needs to wake up.”

Edinburgh declared a housing emergency last year, with Glasgow following suit shortly afterwards.

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The homelessness charity Crisis has raised concerns about families being housed in hotels outside of Edinburgh. In a recent briefing for MSPs, it warned: “People are now presenting to us having been told by the local authority that there is no accommodation, of any kind, to offer them.”

Matt Downie, chief executive of Crisis, said: “These cases are symptomatic of a homelessness system under extraordinary pressure. As the cost-of-living crisis continues, we are seeing more people who were previously comfortable beginning to struggle, and more people who were just about getting by being pushed into homelessness.

"That squeeze on incomes, combined with a shortage of affordable housing, is pushing services towards breaking point, with families sent long distances for accommodation, or people being turned away without support.

“It is vital the Scottish Government presses on with plans to use the upcoming Housing Bill to strengthen homelessness prevention, so people get help before they reach a point of crisis.”

Tory MSP Miles Briggs, his party’s housing spokesman, said: “These are the kinds of cases that illustrate the havoc SNP-Green policies have created – leading to a housing emergency in several council areas, including Edinburgh.

“Their underfunding and neglect – combined with ill-thought-out measures like the rent cap and short-term lets legislation – made rents skyrocket and drove landlords out of the market. Sadly, ordinary Scottish families that want to live and work here are paying the price.”

Cllr Jane Meagher, housing, homelessness and fair work convener at Edinburgh Council, said: “The demand for temporary accommodation in Edinburgh far outstrips supply, which means that sometimes we are unable to access any in the city. The stark choices facing us is that we either look for suitable accommodation outside Edinburgh or people will have to sleep on the streets, which no one wants. We would much rather find them suitable accommodation elsewhere than place people at further risk.”

SNP housing minister Paul McLennan said: “We recognise these are exceptionally challenging times and we are working with local authorities to ensure no one is turned away when they need help.

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“Despite cuts to our budget from the UK Government, we are providing councils with £30.5 million annually for their work to prevent homelessness and £100m from our multi-year Ending Homelessness Together fund, in addition to funding through the local government settlement. I have also regularly met with representatives from Scotland’s local authorities and have actively engaged with them to find solutions to help address housing pressures in their area.

“We recognise the pressure on social housing in Edinburgh and will invest £48.3m in affordable housing in Edinburgh this year as part of our £752m affordable housing supply programme to increase the delivery of more affordable homes across Scotland, the majority of which will be for social rent, including supporting acquisitions of existing properties.”



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