A damning new report reveals a sharp rise in the percentage of private tenants making homeless applications in Scotland.
The report – Homelessness in Scotland 2014: Getting behind the statistics – from the homeless charity Shelter Scotland, shows that 18% of all homeless applications now come from the private rented sector – up 38% in just five years.
Shelter Scotland says the damning figure is disproportionate to the sectors size, which represents just 13% of all housing in Scotland.
Whilst the report acknowledges a 34% drop in the total number of homeless applications made over the last five years, Shelter Scotland says the headline statistics fail to tell the full story.
According to the charity, the report paints a picture of the changing shape of homelessness in Scotland, with the number of people who describe themselves as “long-term roofless” increasing by 24%.
Applications from single people over 25 is rising compared with other age groups, while single under 25’s now account for 13.7% per 1,000 people.
The number of households found to have made themselves ‘intentionally homeless’ (i.e. when the local authority decides a household deliberately did or did not do something which made them homeless) has also risen and now stands at over 6%.
The report has been published ahead of a homelessness conference in Glasgow on Tuesday 27th January, where experts will further analyse the statistics to work out how best to respond to the needs of vulnerable homeless people.
- There has been a marked decrease in the number of homeless applications, with 36,457 applications made in 2013-14. This has been falling since 2009-10, with a 34% reduction in the number of homeless applications in Scotland in that period.
- This decrease can be linked to the introduction of the housing options model and a renewed preventative approach adopted by local authorities, rather than any significant change in the underlying causes of homelessness.
- There are large variations in the statistics in local authority areas for many of the series of data that are gathered, as a result of differing pressures and practice.
- Different groups are responding differently to changes in legislation and practice. The number of applications from single people over 25 is not falling as quickly as it is for other groups.
- The proportion of homeless applicants who are classed as intentionally homeless (i.e. when the local authority decides a household deliberately did or did not do something which made them homeless) has been increasing since 2009-10, and is now higher than in 2002-03, at over 6%.
- The proportion of homeless applications from households renting in the private sector has grown from 13% in 2008-09 to 18% in 2013-14, and is disproportionate to the number of households in the sector.
- The existing data portrays a homeless population of whom a large proportion have additional support needs.
- Contact was lost with around a fifth (18%) of all applicants at some stage in the assessment process. Whilst in some cases the household’s circumstances may have changed, for instance they may have found alternative accommodation, it is unlikely this was the case for all of this group.
- 10,281 households were in temporary accommodation on 31 March 2014. Since a peak in 2011, the total number of households in temporary accommodation has been decreasing, mirroring the trend in homeless applications. It should be noted however that this figure is still 60% higher than the same period in 2002.
- The number of households without children in temporary accommodation is continuing to rise, in contrast to households with children which has been falling since 2008.
- Pressures on housing supply has an impact on the type of tenancy authorities can offer settled accommodation in. Local authorities discharged their duty to homeless applicants through an offer of a social rented tenancy for 69% of households. Household type has a large influence on how the duty is discharged, for example as a result of the availability of different property sizes in an area.
Graeme Brown, Director of Shelter Scotland, said:
“Whilst the headline figures show that homelessness applications are down by one-third in the last five years – which is welcome – our analysis shows it is not all good news for homeless people in Scotland.
“The 36,457 households making homeless applications, a youth homelessness rate at 13.7 per 1000 – over double the rate for over 25s – and a rising proportion of homeless applications from the private rented sector signal that, although there are movements in the right direction, there is still a long way to go.”
He added: “With the significant weakening of the welfare state in recent years, it is more important than ever to ensure that vulnerable households are offered support before they are pushed into crisis.
“For those who do find themselves without a home, a strong housing safety net should be there to provide the services, advice and information they need to help build a pathway out of homelessness.
“The Shelter Scotland conference will look towards long-term, innovative solutions to homelessness and its prevention and what the housing safety net should look like and how it should work for everyone who may need it.”