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Scottish Government gaslighting public on progress to end homelessness

Posted 27 Feb 2024

Scottish Government claims that they are making progress towards ending homelessness and building social housing look like an attempt to gaslight the Scottish public, a leading housing charity said today in Parliament. 

Shelter Scotland made the claim after new figures [1] show local government law breaking relating to duties towards homeless households had rocketed to shocking new levels. The row comes as Scottish Ministers prepare to legislate for further legal duties on councils whilst simultaneously cutting their budget for homelessness services and building new social homes. 

The statistics were published on the same day as MSPs get ready to vote on a budget which slashes funding for housing for the second year in a row [2], a decision the charity has warned will have ‘devastating’ consequences.  

The latest homelessness figures show: 

  • 1,575 instances of failure to offer a place to a household requiring temporary accommodation between 1st April and 30th September 2023, also known as gatekeeping, a 1,400% increase compared to the previous six months. [3] 

  • 2,335 breaches of the Unsuitable Accommodation Order between 1st April and 30th September 2023 – a 19% increase compared to the previous six months. [4] 

  • 9,860 children living in temporary accommodation on 30th September 2023 – a 3% increase from 31st March 2023. 

  • 15,625 households in temporary accommodation – the highest on record and a 4% increase compared to 31st March 2023 

  • 30,724 open homeless cases as of 30th September 2023, a 4% in the six months from 31st March 2023. 

With MSPs set to confirm the Scottish Government’s huge cut to the housing budget for the second year in a row, Shelter Scotland warned that ministers can no longer be taken seriously when they claim to be committed to tackling homelessness.  

The charity has been calling on councils and Scottish Ministers to declare a housing emergency and implement a new emergency plan to reduce the number of people in temporary accommodation. It has also warned that continuing with the existing strategies will only result in more of the same and called for a new national housing emergency plan that prioritises people’s rights and increasing the number of homes for social rent. 

Director, Alison Watson, said: 

“The Scottish Government’s strategies for housing and homelessness are failing and any attempt to say otherwise is starting to feel like an attempt to gaslight the Scottish public. 

“The Scottish Government can’t claim to be determined to fight poverty while presiding over record homelessness, repeatedly deprioritising housing in its spending choices, and ploughing ahead with a strategy which today’s figures once again clearly show isn’t working. 

“Local authorities are breaking the law on an industrial scale every day and yet there’s no new plans, no new money, and no new leadership to meet the scale of the emergency. 

“People in Scotland are being denied their housing rights as a matter of course. Indeed, there’s good reason to believe based on the clients we’ve supported that these figures underestimate the true extent of the problem.  

“It’s hard to imagine any other area of the law where the Scottish Government would tolerate such flagrant and frequent law breaking but that’s what is happening when it comes to housing.  

“The ongoing housing emergency in Scotland was not inevitable, it is a result of poor political choices and serious mismanagement across every tier of Government. Anyone who backed that budget can’t expect to be taken seriously in the future when they claim they’re fighting homelessness.” 

Notes to editors:

  1. Homelessness in Scotland: update to 30 September 2023 

  2. Affordable homes – Scottish Government budget and progress – Scottish Parliament information Centre 

  3. People have the right to be housed in temporary accommodation whilst the local authority is making a decision on their homeless application, and until permanent accommodation is found if they are 'unintentionally' homeless. some people are not offered temporary accommodation when they are legally entitled to it, an experience known as ‘gatekeeping’. 

  4. The Homeless Persons (Unsuitable Accommodation) (Scotland) Order 2014 applies to all households provided with temporary accommodation under s.29 of the Housing (Scotland) Act 1987 - Homeless households should not be placed in temporary accommodation that is 'unsuitable'.