Fall in Scottish homelessness applications

Homeless woman in B&B
Image caption The fall in the number of homelessness applications was credited to new council strategies

The number of people seeking help for homelessness has fallen by 11% to 9,474 in the past year, according to Scottish government figures.

The fall was said to have been due to recent housing options and homelessness prevention actions offered by councils.

There was also a reduction in the number of households with children in temporary accommodation.

And the number of people made homeless or threatened with homelessness fell by a 10th to 7,649.

The statistics showed that the number of people in temporary accommodation increased slightly over the year to June (0.3%) to 10,494 but was about 6% lower than the peak period in early 2011 when temporary placements were in excess of 12,000.

The 2,821 households with children in temporary accommodation was a decrease of 472 households (14%) from the previous year. These households contained a total of 4,574 children, a decrease of 727 children (14%).

The number of children in bed and breakfast accommodation halved to nine.

'Continued improvement'

However, the statisticians said there had not been a major change in the underlying drivers of homelessness.

Scottish Housing Minister Margaret Burgess welcomed the "continued fall in homelessness across Scotland", which she said built on the Scottish government's "historic achievement" in meeting the homelessness 2012 target.

She added: "Over the past few years councils have been developing services in which staff assist households to consider their range of housing options to address their individual housing needs in order to help prevent homelessness before it occurs.

"Alongside this we want to increase housing supply to ensure settled accommodation can be accessed by households as quickly as possible and avoid them spending too much time in temporary accommodation.

"Increasing the supply of affordable housing is a vital part of our efforts to build a better and fairer Scotland."

The Scottish government aims to deliver 30,000 affordable homes - including 20,000 for social rent - over the life of the current parliament.

It is also to make £900m available for affordable housing over the next three years.

The Scottish Conservatives said the number of people in temporary homeless accommodation had increased from 8,523 to 10,494 since the SNP came to power in 2007.

'Too high'

The party claimed a failure by the Scottish government to build new houses had contributed to the issue.

Scottish Conservative housing spokesman Alex Johnstone said: "There will always be a need for temporary accommodation in Scotland.

"However, the use of B&Bs and hotels should be absolutely discouraged, because this is not suitable accommodation for anyone.

"Some families and individuals can be in these settings for long periods of time, a situation which is anything but temporary."

Scottish Labour welfare spokeswoman Jackie Baillie said: "Whilst the number of households with children in temporary accommodation is decreasing, the fact that there are a thousand more such households now than a decade ago raises significant questions about how the SNP government is trying to tackle homelessness.

"It can be no surprise that the numbers have remained stubbornly high after the SNP withdrew millions from the house building budget, which has seen a collapse in the number of new homes for rent."

Graeme Brown, director of housing charity Shelter Scotland, said: "It is good news that 11% fewer families and individuals are experiencing the trauma of homelessness.

"However, homelessness in Scotland is still too high and we cannot afford to be complacent or lose sight of the fact that over 7,649 households found themselves homeless in just three months."

'Serious challenges'

He added: "The root cause of homelessness is a housing crisis which has seen the housing safety net stripped apart after decades of under-investment.

"The only way forward is for the Scottish government to build at least 10,000 new social homes a year to bring hope to the 155,100 on local authority housing waiting lists and much-needed jobs to the construction sector."

David Ogilvie, policy manager for the Scottish Federation of Housing Associations, said the ongoing reduction was down to the strong emphasis in Scottish government policy placed upon homelessness prevention and tenancy sustainment.

But he added: "We are concerned that, with the rollout of the UK coalition government's welfare reforms, come some serious challenges to homelessness service provision which could undermine some of the excellent homelessness prevention and tenancy sustainment work carried out by social landlords and others here in Scotland."

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