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Homeless families spend longer in temporary housing

Published: 7 February 2017

Homeless families spend longer in temporary housing

The increasing time spent in temporary accommodation by homeless families with children in Scotland is now far too long and risks harming their health and wellbeing.

Our new report shows that families with children spent a total of nearly one million days in temporary accommodation last year - the same as the year before – a dire situation that, if anything, is getting worse not better.

A previous Audit Scotland report estimated that temporary accommodation costs Scottish local authorities around £27 million per year extra than if they provided permanent homes for those in need.

Our third annual Use of Temporary Accommodation in Scotland report has been compiled following a Freedom of Information (FOI) request to Scotland’s local authorities.

It finds that the median time spent in temporary accommodation by families with children has increased by almost 20% in the last two years to more than 20 weeks.  Analysis also showed that 13% of families with children were in temporary accommodation for longer than a year compared to 11% of households without children.

The report showed that local authorities in Scotland had to provide 3.8 million days of temporary accommodation to homeless families and individuals last year. Recent Scottish Government statistics revealed that in September 2016 the number of homeless children in temporary accommodation had risen by 17% on the previous year to 5,751.

In the report we have recognised the Scottish Government’s commitment to build 50,000 new affordable homes by 2021 – with 35,000 for social rent – as a positive step. We also recommended that Holyrood should support guidance on standards in temporary accommodation to ensure that stays in temporary accommodation are a positive stepping-stone out of homelessness and called for a new national homelessness strategy for Scotland.

Alison Watson, our 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.”

Alison Watson added:

“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.”

Alison Watson concluded:

“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.”

The full report can be found in our online policy library.

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