More than 15,000 children in Scotland without stable home as households needing help rises 4%

The number of households assessed as being homeless have risen by 4% in the past year, with the figures including more than 15,000 children without a stable home.

According to Scottish Government statistics, 31,333 households were assessed as being homeless in 2019-20, compared to 30,236 the previous year.

These households contained 51,365 people, 15,711 of whom were children.

Three-quarters of those who were homeless were single people, while 28% of the total had a child.

The figures also suggest that those from minority ethnic backgrounds are disproportionately affected, making up 14% of those homeless despite representing just 4% of the population of Scotland, according to the 2011 census.

In the three months before making an application to their local authority, 2,884 people reported sleeping rough, with 1,643 saying they had done so the night before declaring themselves homeless.

Since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, the Scottish Government has worked to reduce the number of rough sleepers, however the full effects are not yet known as the currents statistics cover only to March 31.

Housing minister Kevin Stewart (pictured) said: “Today’s figures are a reminder about why we are committed to ending homelessness and rough sleeping.

“They do not reflect the progress made to dramatically reduce the numbers of people sleeping rough during the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Since the start of the crisis we have provided more than £1.5 million to third-sector partners to accommodate those experiencing homelessness in hotels.

“This builds on our £32.5 million investment to support local authorities to prioritise settled accommodation for all.

“Our priority is now to prevent anyone from ending up back on the streets or in unsuitable temporary accommodation.”

A report into tackling homelessness after the coronavirus pandemic by the Homelessness And Rough Sleeping Action Group made a number of recommendations, including ensuring more self-contained emergency accommodation is available and providing affordable, permanent housing for those in emergency housing.

The Scottish Government will reply “in full” to the recommendations next month, Mr Stewart said.

He added: “In the interim, our partners have closed night shelters to explore alternative self-contained options for the coming winter, with a view to phasing out such shelters completely in the long term. Additionally, as previously announced, we also intend to extend emergency legislation designed to protect renters from eviction.”

In January, the Scottish Government pledged to eradicate homelessness, setting out a five-year, £50 million plan to combat the issue and transform temporary accommodation.

Shelter Scotland assistant director Gordon MacRae said that Scottish ministers must fulfil the promises they have made to end homelessness and rough sleeping.

“These figures show that Scotland’s homelessness system was failing people even before the pandemic hit,” he said.

“Now is the time for ministers to uphold their promises to homeless people. Government and local authorities must urgently step up and significantly increase the supply of suitable accommodation.”

Scottish Conservative housing spokesman Alexander Stewart called on the Scottish Government to take responsibility for the rise in cases, adding: “We are seeing thousands of children affected, with thousands more left trapped in temporary accommodation for over six months on end, which is an appalling situation.”

Green MSP Andy Wightman also called for the temporary measures put in place during the pandemic to be replaced by longer-term solutions.

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