Scotland

Number of deaths rises among homeless people in Scotland

Homeless man Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The figures include people in temporary accommodation as well as those sleeping rough

The number of homeless people who died in Scotland rose by 19% in 2018, according to a new report.

The figures published by National Records of Scotland (NRS) estimated that there had been 195 deaths during the year - up from 164 in 2017.

It said the death rate in Scotland was more than double that of England or Wales.

Housing Minister Kevin Stewart said the Scottish government was working to "transform" services for the homeless.

The 2018 figures cover a period of exceptionally harsh winter weather, which came to be known as the Beast from the East.

The NRS said its report provided experimental statistics which were still in their testing phase.

The figures include people who were in temporary accommodation at the time of their death, as well as those who were sleeping rough.

Key findings included:

  • Scotland had the highest rate of homeless deaths of all GB countries in 2018, with a rate of 35.9 per million population compared to 16.8 in England and 14.5 in Wales
  • More than half (53%) of homeless deaths in 2018 were drug-related
  • About three quarters of homeless deaths were male - 74% of the total in 2017 and 79% in 2018
  • The mean age at death was 43 for females and 44 for males.

The report indicates that the cities of Glasgow, Edinburgh, Aberdeen and Dundee had above-average death rates in 2018.

Glasgow and Aberdeen recorded the highest rates - 100.5 and 67.8 deaths per million population.

Shetland recorded 111.8 deaths per million population, but the NRS warned that this figure should be treated "with caution" because of the very small number of deaths.

No homeless deaths were identified in four council areas - Angus, East Renfrewshire, Moray and the Scottish Borders.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Scotland experienced a harsh winter in 2018

The housing charity Shelter Scotland described the figures as "individual personal tragedies".

Director Graeme Brown said they were "people living in desperate situations ultimately failed by the system".

"It is vital that the effort to end this loss of life does not end with the publication of the figures," he added.

"The housing, health, social care and justice sectors need to work more closely together to ensure people get the tailored support they need for health issues such as mental illness and addictions.

"We also need to see housing that supports people to recover and stay well."

'Public health emergency'

Mr Stewart said the reasons for individuals becoming homeless were "complex", but could include addiction, poor mental health, and family breakdown.

He said: "This report shows that of the number of people who died while experiencing homelessness, 53% were drug-related deaths.

"This reflects the wider public health emergency Scotland is facing over drug deaths."

He added: "One person being made homeless is one too many and that is why the Scottish government are working in partnership to transform services to ensure our system supports those at risk."

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