Scandal of Scotland’s invisible homeless children

Posted 15 Dec 2021

A new survey has revealed that the majority of people in Scotland do not know how many children become homeless every day. The poll by YouGov for Shelter Scotland shows that 93% of adults cannot correctly identify the right range when estimating this number. (1)

The correct answer – 32 children – is equivalent to more than a class full of children becoming homeless every day in Scotland. (2)

This means 992 children will become homeless during this festive period with a staggering total of almost 12,000 homeless children in Scotland since the start of the year.

The survey by YouGov also found that:

  • Young people aged 18-24 were most likely to guess the correct range for the number of children who become homeless – 17% said they thought 31-40 children became homeless in Scotland every day. Nine percent guessed a range of 21-30 children.

  • Meanwhile, those aged 55 and over were least likely to guess the correct range. Only 5% of those polled in this age group thought that the correct range was 31-40, while 8% thought it was closer to 21-30 children who become homeless every day.

  • People in the West of Scotland were most likely to be aware of the correct range. Collectively, 33% estimated a number between 21 and 40 for the number of children who become homeless every day in Scotland.

According to statistics from the Scottish Government, on average, a family with children spends almost a year in temporary accommodation, with an average stay of 341 days – almost five months longer than a couple without children.

Our Director Alison Watson said:

“The fact that most people in Scotland don’t know that 32 children become homeless every day is saddening, but not surprising.

“Over the past few weeks, many of us have been excitedly preparing for the festive period, but in that time almost a thousand children have faced the distress of losing their homes, often out of sight and out of mind to those around them.

“Many leave behind friends, family and beloved pets to move to often substandard, emergency temporary accommodation; others are facing lost days at school; and for some, the trauma will leave a lasting mark on their mental health and physical wellbeing.

“We talk about a housing emergency, but its devastating scale is often hidden or under-appreciated. Scotland now needs to wake up to the plight of homeless children, and that of anyone else facing Christmas without a home.

“If we don’t act now, together and for one another, things will only get worse, more children will be affected by homelessness, and the housing emergency will destroy more lives and more futures.”

Homelessness can have a severely detrimental impact on children’s lives and futures, and Shelter Scotland is calling on people across Scotland to join their ‘Fight for Home’ campaign. With the help of the public, the charity wants to empower private renters, ensure more social homes are built, and be there for anyone fighting housing injustice.

Alison Watson added:

“Life can be a nightmare for people in temporary accommodation with no safe, permanent place to live.

“It is disruptive both physically and mentally, often affecting relationships and impacting on children being able to do homework in a safe environment, being able to keep warm at night and so much more.

“We can only end Scotland’s housing emergency by increasing the supply of secure and affordable homes. That’s why we are calling on the Scottish Government to build the new social homes that Scotland needs. Building more quality social homes in the right places will tackle the root cause of homelessness, reduce child poverty and inequality, improve health, create jobs, help Scotland meet its climate targets and support economic growth.”

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Notes to editors:

1. All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc. Total sample size was 1,004 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between 2nd and 8th December 2021. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all Scotland adults (aged 18+).

2. The Scottish Government says P1s and composite classes should be no bigger than 25 pupils; P2 and P3s, no larger than 30; and P4s to P7s, no greater than 33.