Rise in number of homelessness applications received by councils

The number of homelessness applications increased last year, according to official statistics.

Figures published by the Scottish Government indicate local authorities received 18,486 applications for homelessness assistance during the six months between April 1 and September 30 in 2018.

It represents a 2% increase of 284 applications for the same period in 2017.

The number of homelessness applications has been decreasing since around spring 2010, although the downward trend has slowed in recent years, having levelled out since 2015.

The annual figure recorded in 2010 (for the 12 months to end September 2010) for homeless applications was 57,706.

Comparatively, the most recent figure published in 2018 was 35,838 – a 38% decrease representing a fall of 21,868 applications.

The Scottish Government published its Ending Homelessness Together action plan in November last year, setting out an approach to end homelessness in the country.

Housing minister Kevin Stewart said the Scottish Government is “taking decisive action” to completely end homelessness.

Mr Stewart said: “We know that UK Government welfare changes are impacting on the most vulnerable in our society and we are doing everything within our powers, including investing over £127 million in 2018/19, to mitigate UK welfare reform and drive lasting change to prevent and end homelessness.

“Making a homeless application does not usually indicate that people are roofless or sleeping rough, but it does indicate an acute housing need and Scotland’s strong homelessness rights mean families are placed in temporary accommodation as a legal right, with 78% of this being furnished social rent homes.

“We are clear that one person being made homeless is one too many, particularly in households which include children. That is why we have established a £50 million fund and published an action plan which takes forward the 70 recommendations from our Homelessness and Rough Sleeping Action Group.

“We know that for some people, particularly those with multiple complex needs and those most at risk of rough sleeping, effective support for their wider needs is as important as a settled home.

“So, we are pursuing a shift towards getting a person into settled accommodation first, so they can then access support from the security of their own home.”

Labour housing spokeswoman Pauline McNeil said: “These figures are disgraceful and should prompt hard questions inside the government.

“It is clear that the systematic problems that lead to homelessness are not being tackled and that’s before we consider the impact of the SNPs £1.5 billion worth of cuts to councils since 2011.

“These cuts threaten vital services and mean people fall through the cracks because they aren’t getting the support they need.

“Labour has a plan to fix our housing crisis and tackle homelessness, by ensuring councils have the funding they need to support vulnerable people, reforming the private rented sector and building more homes for social rent.”

The report also indicated the number of children in temporary accommodation increased by 245 as of September 2018 – a rise of 4% to 6,826.

Figures indicated there were 10,955 households in temporary accommodation, an increase of 56 households on the previous year.

Scottish Liberal Democrat housing spokeswoman Caron Lindsay described the number of children living in temporary accomodation as “intolerable”.

Ms Lindsay said: “Both governments have failed these families – the SNP by failing to build thousands of homes promised for social rent, the Tories by cruel cuts to social security which have left them at greater risk of eviction and homelessness.

“It’s time they got to grips with the housing crisis. We need to see social renting re-established as a long-term option, incentives to bring the thousands of long-term empty homes back into use and dignity and fairness at the heart of the social security system.”

Scottish Greens housing spokesman Andy Wightman MSP said: “Today’s statistics paint a worrying trend of what’s happening for individuals and families experiencing homelessness across Scotland.

“It’s simply a national disgrace that the number of children living in temporary accommodation has increased by 4%.

“Temporary arrangements can often be inappropriate and can affect the health and wellbeing of children and families.

“While the Scottish Government have recently made concerted efforts to tackle homelessness, their ambitions must be matched with appropriate funding and support for our most vulnerable of citizens.”

Scottish Conservative housing spokesman Graham Simpson said: “The rise in applications for homelessness across Scotland is appalling and the SNP government must address the issue.

“Homelessness and housing supply are intrinsically linked and the SNP has failed to meet manifesto commitments on building affordable housing. We need to do more to address homelessness in Scotland.

“No-one should be left without a roof over their head, which is why we are determined to end rough sleeping and respond to the causes of homelessness.

“The future direction of this issue in the coming years in Scotland depends on the policy implementation of the SNP and future Scottish Government legislation.”

Copyright (c) Press Association Ltd. 2019, All Rights Reserved. Picture (c) Andrew Milligan / PA Wire.