‘Shocking’ rise in households staying in temporary accommodation due to domestic abuse

Domestic abuse remains the single biggest cause of homelessness for women in ScotlandDomestic abuse remains the single biggest cause of homelessness for women in Scotland
Domestic abuse remains the single biggest cause of homelessness for women in Scotland
Critics called the statistics ‘shameful’

The number of households staying in temporary accommodation in Edinburgh due to domestic abuse has risen by 75 per cent in the space of five years.

Figures show the number of children in temporary accommodation for the same reason has almost doubled, from 394 in 2018 to 781 last year.

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Critics called the statistics “shocking and shameful”. The council said the number had grown in line with increases in overall homelessness cases.

A freedom of information request submitted to City of Edinburgh Council, and published on its website, found 472 households were living in temporary accommodation due to domestic abuse in 2018. This amounted to 917 individuals – 403 women, 120 men and 394 children.

This had risen to 827 households by 2023, or 1,727 individuals – 701 women, 245 men and 781 children.

The average length of stay in temporary accommodation for a household was 135.8 days in 2018. Last year, it was 216.7 days.

Maeve McGoldrick, head of policy and communications for Crisis in Scotland, said: “Domestic abuse remains the single biggest cause of homelessness for women in Scotland, yet all too often survivors of abuse are left to spend long periods of time in forms of homelessness accommodation that are totally unsuitable for their needs.

“In our frontline services we regularly encounter women, including women with children, who do not have access to proper cooking or laundry facilities, or who face the reality of being moved from B&B to B&B every few days. That leaves them unable to plan for the future, and can do huge damage to their physical and mental health.

“Homelessness in Scotland is now at record levels, but the recently published Housing Bill offers the opportunity to change that. We strongly support proposals to strengthen protections against homelessness. These, along with the plans to improve protections for survivors of abuse must be backed up with the necessary funding to make them work in practice.”

Scottish Liberal Democrat housing spokesman Paul McGarry said it was “very distressing to see such a sharp rise”.

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He said: “Temporary accommodation only provides a respite for so long; victims are still faced with the frightening uncertainty of what lies ahead after that arrangement ends. Tackling Scotland’s housing crisis goes hand in hand with supporting victims of domestic abuse.”

Conservative MSP Pam Gosal said: “These statistics are shocking and shameful. This number of domestic abuse victims should not be left in limbo after bravely fleeing a violent home.”

The Scottish Government declared a national housing emergency on Wednesday, with ministers citing a range of issues, including austerity. Councils in Edinburgh, Glasgow, Fife, West Dunbartonshire and Argyll and Bute had already declared emergencies.

A spokeswoman for the City of Edinburgh Council said: “Fleeing domestic abuse is hugely stressful so we provide accommodation to vulnerable survivors alongside other support services. Unfortunately, the number of survivors in temporary accommodation has grown in line with increases to overall homeless presentations but proportionally, the percentage hasn’t changed.

“The stark increase in homelessness is a symptom of Edinburgh’s housing emergency caused by unique challenges like nowhere else in Scotland. Edinburgh is a growing city with the lowest proportion of social housing in the country and the biggest, most expensive, private rented sector. We’ll continue to do everything we can to make sure our tenants are settled in safe accommodation as soon as possible.”