'Damning': New study finds 38 children a day were made homeless in 2017-18

New analysis from Shelter Scotland shows the true scale of child homelessness, the health impact of being homelessness and the increasing length of time living in temporary housing across Scotland

NEW RESEARCH has found that 38 children a day were made homeless over the last fiscal year across Scotland.

The analysis published by Shelter Scotland found that in 2017-2018, just over 14,000 children were living in temporary accommodation – equivalent to six or seven children in every school across Scotland.

The analysis released by the housing charity showed that homeless families with children were likely to spend more than 25 per cent longer in temporary accommodation than those families without children – 201 days compared to 161, with 13 per cent of households spending more than a year in temporary housing. 

Alison Watson, Deputy Director of Shelter Scotland, said: “The sheer scale of homelessness among children in Scotland is damning on our society. For the equivalent of a class and half of schoolchildren to be made homeless everyday just isn’t right. The fact families with children then have to endure the limbo of temporary accommodation longer than other homeless households just compounds their misery.

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“This has got to stop. We must find ways of supplying enough permanent accommodation for homeless families and individuals. At the heart of the problem is the acute shortage of housing. We need to build many more truly affordable homes of the right type in places where people want to live in order to fix our housing emergency.”

Under the 1987 Housing (Scotland) Act, a person should be treated as homeless – even if they have accommodation – if it is not reasonable for them to continue to stay in it.

Local authorities across Scotland have a legal duty to help those people who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless by either providing information or advice or offer temporary or permanent accommodation.

As part of three new policy briefings released by Shelter Scotland, they have highlighted the drastic effects homelessness can have on children and young people - across health and education – leaving them unable to fulfil their potential, which will have a profound impact on them the longer they are homeless.

READ MORE: New subsidy for the building of private rented housing “a step in the wrong direction”

Analysis of health and homelessness data showed that in almost half the homeless cases found that there is a link between poor health and homelessness, with a higher proposition of homeless people more likely to die at a younger age.

Watson added that the finding showed “the need for an integrated response from health and housing services to recognise and act upon the very clear warning signs of a person spiralling toward homelessness”.

Commenting on the figures Mary Glasgow, Interim Chief Executive at Children 1st, Scotland's national children's charity, said: "The statistics released today are simply unacceptable. The impact of living in limbo and waiting for a permanent home can be extremely distressing for children and their families and can have a life-long impact.

"Children 1st works alongside a number of families affected by housing issues and homelessness, including families who have been living in temporary accommodation for long periods of time. Families have told us that while waiting for a permanent home they are not able to access appropriate health care and support, that their mental health is seriously impacted and that their children feel worried about the future.” 

Scottish Labour is urgently calling on the Scottish Government to prioritise those families who are in temporary accommodation.

Scottish Labour’s Housing spokesperson, Pauline McNeil MSP told the CommonSpace that “these ‘real life’ accounts illustrate the damage being done to thousands of children living in unsuitable temporary accommodation across Scotland”.

Read more: Shelter Scotland briefing – Children experiencing homeless 

McNeil added: “It is also not the first time we have heard this, the Scottish Government has their eye off the ball.  These children need a Government that will act in their interests.  The Housing Minister needs to act without delay.” 

Scottish Liberal Democrats Housing spokesperson Caron Lindsay said: "It is not good enough that families have to spend two-thirds of a school year in temporary accommodation from which they could be moved at any time. 

"The impact on mental and physical health is clear. 

"The SNP Government needs to get on with building the houses it has promised for social rent."

“We are clear that one person being made homeless is too many, particularly in households which include children.” Scottish Government spokesperson

A Scottish Government spokesperson responded to the report by stating: “We are clear that one person being made homeless is too many, particularly in households which include children.

“This is why preventing homelessness is one of our key priorities. While temporary accommodation provides an important safety net in emergency situations, we want to any time there to be as short as possible.”

Last month, the Scottish Government announced a £21m package to support local councils to help tackle homelessness that includes speeding up the process of housing those people in secure accommodation. 

The Scottish Government has set out a five-year commitment to deliver at least 50,000 affordable homes, including 35,000 homes for social rent, at a cost of more than £3 billion.

Picture courtesy of Tom Parnell