Homeless Scots asked to move to England as councils 'run out of options'

Shelter Scotland say that homelessness services 'appear to be on the brink of failure'.

Homeless Scots asked to move to England as councils ‘run out of options’, claim Shelter Scotland iStock

Homeless people in central Scotland are being asked to move hundreds of miles away to the north of England, or to the Highlands, as local authorities run out of options to help, a charity has claimed.

Reports of people being asked to move to England have emerged as new national statistics show that homelessness is rising back to pre-pandemic levels.

New figures showed 8,835 children are in temporary accommodation, the highest number on record and more than a 1,000 more than last year.

It is claimed that local authorities do not have the homes needed to support the number of people in need.

Homelessness charity Shelter Scotland says the situation is the worst it has ever seen and that council services appear to be on the brink of failure.

The charity is calling on the First Minister to “get a grip of the crisis in homelessness” which it says is certain to get worse in the months ahead.

Shelter Scotland director Alison Watson pointed to the combined impact of Covid-19 related rent arrears, rising evictions, the cost of living crisis and the need to find accommodation to welcome Ukrainian refugees as issues which are yet to show in the numbers published on Thursday.

The charity is demanding that the First Minister urgently leads a new national initiative to ensure local authorities guarantee every person a home if they become homeless. 

Alison Watson, director of Shelter Scotland said: “When I learned that councils were asking our clients to leave jobs and family in the central belt to take up accommodation in England, I did a double take. Surely it has not come to this; that today in Scotland we appear unable to provide for the most basic of human rights, the right to a safe home. 

“Scotland was in the grip of a housing emergency before the pandemic hit. The political will to get people off the streets showed what can be done but instead of pushing on and finishing the job of getting people a permanent home we have gone backwards. 

“Homelessness today is no longer characterised by people sleeping on the streets. Instead, it is children trapped, sometimes for years, in temporary accommodation. Accommodation, which is often damp, miserable and completely unsuitable for anybody much less a child. 

“These statistics show that with more people becoming homeless, more people stuck in the homelessness system for longer and more people likely to become homelessness as the cost of living crisis bites, Scotland’s homelessness system is now on the brink of failure.  

“That is why we are calling on the First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, to lead a new national initiative to ensure every council has the homes they need and to guarantee the legal rights of everyone in Scotland to a safe home if they find themselves homeless.” 

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “We are concerned at these reports. Local authorities work hard to meet the needs and preferences of homeless households, but some areas of Scotland, particularly the large cities, face significant challenges sourcing settled homes of the right type and size. This results in households spending longer in temporary accommodation, placing pressure on temporary accommodation supply.

“We know the situation has been exacerbated by the pandemic, which has led to a backlog for local authorities that must be addressed. This year we’re providing councils with £23.5 million for homelessness prevention and response measures, on top of £8 million to help them reduce use of temporary accommodation by moving people into settled homes as quickly as possible.

“We are committed to building more homes for social rent, having delivered more than 78,000 since 2007. We have recently established an expert group, chaired by Shelter Scotland and the Association of Local Authority Chief Housing Officers, for an action plan to reduce the numbers of people in temporary accommodation. The Housing Secretary has also been meeting with housing conveners of the councils under most pressure to find solutions.”

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