Edinburgh Council 'failed to accommodate' almost 1,500 homeless households in the Capital

Housing bosses in the Capital have failed to accommodate homeless people more than 1,000 times despite being legally obliged to do so.
Edinburgh City Council have failed to accommodate more than 1,000 homeless peopleEdinburgh City Council have failed to accommodate more than 1,000 homeless people
Edinburgh City Council have failed to accommodate more than 1,000 homeless people

New statistics revealed by the Scottish Government show that Edinburgh City Council failed to find somewhere for 1,405 homeless households to stay from 2017 to September 2019, but the statistics handed over by the authority to Holyrood are flawed due to “technical issues” within the council.

The authority says that in around 80 per cent of cases, homeless households have previously been accommodated, which they have lost through their own actions such as drug taking or committing assaults.

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The council’s housing, homelessness and fair work convener, Cllr Kate Campbell, said: “While these figures have been reported to the Scottish Housing Regulator, a technical error meant they weren’t reported to the Scottish Government as they should have been. We’ve reviewed processes around this and put in place robust procedures to make sure they’re properly reported in future.

“Edinburgh absolutely recognises our duty to house people experiencing homelessness up until they have a permanent home. We make repeated offers, working one-on-one to with someone to consider alternative places to stay. These repeated offers of help are reflected in the figures.

“We recognise that people experiencing homelessness are some of the most vulnerable in the city and many will have experienced trauma which can make it difficult to sustain traditional forms of accommodation. That’s why we’ve increased rapid access accommodation, which is for people with high support needs, and why our homelessness task force will be looking at how to further expand accommodation for people who are exceptionally vulnerable.”

In August last year, Shelter Scotland started legal action against Glasgow City Council after statistics showed the number of occasions the authority had breached its legal duty to provide accommodation was continuing to rise, year on year.

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Shelter Scotland director, Graeme Brown, said: “These statistics lay bare the reality of our housing emergency. While it’s good that Edinburgh is now being transparent, these figures show the council has not been meeting its statutory duties, a situation which we have already highlighted in Glasgow.

“The sheer numbers of occasions when people are being turned away to fend for themselves is scandalous. Who knows what happens to these people when they leave the council offices? Councils can’t pick and choose which laws they adhere to.”

The statistics show that the council has experienced a significant reduction in the number of people repeatedly showing up as homeless – with presentations almost halving over the last five years. There has also been a steady decline in the number of households assessed as homeless.

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But Edinburgh continues to fail to move families with children out of B&B accommodation after seven days, as it has a legal duty to do. There were 295 breaches of the ban on prolonged stays in B&Bs in the 18/19 year to September.

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Tory Lothians MSP, Miles Briggs, said: “It is unacceptable the number of children in Edinburgh who are living in temporary accommodation.

“Instead of pledges by Edinburgh Council to fix the crisis, it has in fact got worse.”

Labour MSP for the Lothians, Sarah Boyack, added: “This is a shameful statistic but only serves to further highlight inadequate funding for local authorities.”

Housing Minister Kevin Stewart said: “One person being made homeless is one too many, particularly in households which include children. That is why we are working in partnership with local government, people with lived experience and frontline services to transform services to support those who are homeless or at risk of homelessness.

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“We want to ensure our systems do all they can to prevent homelessness and when it does happen, ensure there is a strong support system available to people so they can move into settled accommodation quickly.”