Homelessness will get worse, say councillors

Councillors in the north and north-east predicted homelessness will get worse as Scottish Government housing cuts kick in.

The forecast comes as official figures show the number of people assessed by councils as priority cases rose by 2% between April and September last year compared with the same period in 2009.

Two areas, Angus and Dundee, assessed 100% of applicants as priority cases. A priority is when the applicant is thought to be more vulnerable than other people such as pregnant women, those with children and 16 and 17-year-olds.

A further 11 councils assessed more than 90% of applicants as priorities and 15 assessed between 80% and 90% as priority cases.

The rise is seen as a reflection of the pledge to offer all homeless people permanent homes by next year.

Over the six-month period, 29,382 presented themselves to councils as homeless, up 212 on the same period in 2009.

Angus housing chairman Jim Millar said the high percentage of priority cases was due to the way it assessed all applications.

He said repeat cases represented 2%, compared with 6% in neighbouring Aberdeenshire and 4% in Aberdeen. This was due to the introduction of a single shared assessments with health and social workers to prevent the “revolving door” of homelessness.

The authority hopes to build 180 council homes by next year.

Mr Millar said: “We need to keep building houses as fast as we can, but the bottom line is the Scottish Government has slashed the budget and I think communities are going to be paying the price for it.”

Just 0.24% of households in Angus were in temporary accommodation last year, compared with the Scottish average of 0.46%. Highland and Shetland had the joint highest at 0.83%.

Last year, Highland had 2,367 applications, of which more than 90% were priorities.

Highland housing and social work convener Margaret Davidson said the council was adopting a new “options approach” intended to keep people out of temporary accommodation by investigating all housing solutions.

She said: “We are never going to get enough social housing in the Highlands.

“The housing finance development money has dropped like a stone. We are hoping we can build 700 to 800 council houses over the next three or four years, but that is not going to take away the housing list – we have 11,500 people on the list.

“We need to find a whole range of solutions and need to try to support people in the accommodation they are in, rather than have them declare themselves homeless.”

Alison Watson, of Shelter Scotland, said the organisation had been warning for some time that homelessness would rise as government cuts, job losses and welfare reforms started to bite.

“We are concerned this is the beginning of an upward trend,” she said.