Liberal Democrats say action needed on child homelessness

Call comes after new figures reveal more than 12,000 children were without a home last Christmas.

Liberal Democrats say action needed on child homelessness STV News
More than 12,000 children were without a home last Christmas.

The Scottish Liberal Democrats have called for action to be taken on homelessness in Scotland after it emerged more than 12,000 children were without a home last Christmas.

A total of 22,368 homeless applications were live on December 25 last year, involving 12,467 children and 25,832 adults.

The number of children involved in live applications has risen from 10,508 in 2015, along with the number of adults from 24,906.

Paul McGarry, the Lib Dem housing spokesman, who was himself homeless at 16, said: “At this time of year, most of us can rely upon a comfortable and secure roof above our heads. These statistics show thousands upon thousands are not so lucky.

“In the past four years, the number of children part of a live homeless application on Christmas Day has risen almost 20%. That’s a heartbreaking statistic.

“Whether it’s living on the streets, sofa-surfing or shuttling between temporary accommodation, these situations take a huge toll on people’s mental and physical health.

“It also exerts a huge toll on children’s education and development.

“Scotland is a wealthy and prosperous country. We can do so much better than this.”

At the beginning of the pandemic, the Scottish Government worked to slash the number of homeless people in Scotland, which McGarry said was “remarkable”.

However, he said people had questioned why it took the pandemic before action was taken.

McGarry said: “The work that was done at the outset of the pandemic to house people was remarkable. But it also left many people wondering why it needed this crisis for government to mount a concerted effort to stop people being left outside.

“The SNP must urgently grasp the opportunity to build more social housing and ensure councils have resources to fix poor housing.

“There are thousands of neglected and vacant properties across the country which, with the right incentives, could be renovated to boost the housing stock.

“We also need to see advice services given the support and resources they need to help people in need, not being permanently left hanging by a thread.

“With common sense policies and a needle-sharp focus, we can tackle homelessness in 2021.”

Housing minister Kevin Stewart said: “We don’t want children to be experiencing homelessness at any time of the year.

“Scotland has some of the strongest homelessness rights in the world. Anyone experiencing or at risk of homelessness is entitled to help from their local authority, which includes accommodation.

“These rights pre-date the pandemic by years and have been a strong safety net for people experiencing homelessness.”

Stewart went on to say that ending homelessness “altogether” is a “national priority”.

He added: “The updated action plan, published jointly with Cosla in October, places greater emphasis on prevention of homelessness and accelerating rapid rehousing to prioritise settled accommodation over temporary accommodation.

“It underlines the importance of prevention, highlights measures to reduce the risk of evictions and proposes phasing out night shelters, replacing them with rapid rehousing welcome centres in Edinburgh and Glasgow.”