Homeless families with children are spending “increasingly long periods of time in temporary accommodation” and is heaping “more misery on people whose lives are already in crisis”, say Shelter Scotland.
A new report by the homeless charity reveals Scottish families with children spent almost one million days in temporary accommodation last year, with Shelter warning the “dire situation” faced by homeless families in Scotland is getting worse.
It’s ‘Temporary Accommodation in Scotland’ report, compiled using Freedom of Information requests sent to Scotland’s local authorities, found the average length of time homeless families with children spend in temporary housing has increased by almost 20% over the past two years.
Analysis of the FOI requests also reveals that 13% of families with children were in temporary accommodation for longer than a year, compared to 11% of homeless households without children.
According to the report, Scottish councils provided 3.8 million days of temporary accommodation to homeless families and individuals in 2016. The findings bear a close similarity to Scottish Government figures, which show the number of homeless children in temporary accommodation during September 2016 rose by 17% on the previous year to 5,751.
Alison Watson, Shelter Scotland deputy director, said: “Losing your home is a traumatic experience in itself, but then having to spend increasingly long periods of time in temporary accommodation – with no guaranteed standard for the quality of your housing – just heaps more misery on people whose lives are already in crisis.
“Children in particular are adversely affected by homelessness and, as recent Scottish Government figures show, the problem is getting worse not better – with 826 more children in temporary accommodation last year than the year before.
“Just as worrying is the fact that families with children are now spending longer in temporary accommodation than in previous years, with the median length of stay having increased to more than 20 weeks. It is well known that children’s health and education tend to suffer more the longer they are in temporary accommodation.”
The news comes shortly after an Audit Scotland report estimated that temporary accommodation costs local authorities around £27 million per year extra than if they had provided permanent homes.
Alison Watson said: “At the heart of the problem is Scotland’s housing crisis caused by an acute shortage of affordable homes. We recognise the Scottish Government’s commitment to build 50,000 new affordable homes by 2021, but that falls short of the minimum of 12,000 a year we actually need.
“If we do build enough affordable housing of the right sort in the right places, then people’s stay in temporary accommodation can be cut dramatically, the profound impact of homelessness can be reduced and people can rebuild their lives sooner. We’d also save millions of pounds a year to the public purse.”
She added: “If homeless families and individuals are having to stay longer in temporary accommodation because of the lack of appropriate housing for them, it’s imperative that guidance on the expected minimum standard of accommodation is given to ensure that people’s stays in temporary accommodation are positive and not a miserable life in limbo.
“To drive this forward, Scotland needs a new national homelessness strategy that works across government departments to tackle and prevent what is still a major badge of shame for our nation.”