Housing Minister 'disappointed' with Edinburgh Council's failures over children in temporary accommodation

Housing Minister Kevin Stewart has blasted city council bosses for their lack of progress to lift children in homeless families out of temporary accommodation.

Friday, 31st January 2020, 11:45 am
Updated Friday, 31st January 2020, 11:47 am
Housing Minister Kevin Stewart and city housing and homelessness convener, Cllr Kate Campbell

Scotland’s housing minister is “very disappointed” over the lack of progress that council bosses have made in ending children being sheltered in temporary accommodation.

Minister Kevin Stewart added that he is “not particularly happy” with the lack of progress made by both Edinburgh City Council and authorities in Glasgow in meeting legal duties around homelessness.

Snapshot statistics show that the number of children in temporary accommodation in the Capital has risen from 1,095 in 2018 to 1,260 last year. Scottish Government figures also show that as of September 2019, ten households with children were staying in B&Bs in the Capital – a reduction from the previous year. But 25 families with children were living in “unsuitable temporary accommodation”, a rise of eight from September 2018.

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Conservative MSP for the Lothians, Miles Briggs, quizzed Mr Stewart over how the Scottish Government is supporting the Capital’s housing chiefs to move families out of temporary accommodation and into permanent homes.

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Mr Stewart said: “I don’t want to see any children living in temporary accommodation so I am very disappointed to see that the number continue to rise in Edinburgh city.

“I met with the chief executive and the housing convener of the council last week and discussed the progress they are making towards transforming the homelessness system to ensure that children don’t live in unsuitable accommodation such as bed and breakfasts.”

Mr Briggs also highlighted the failure of both Edinburgh and Glasgow authorities in failing to accommodate homeless people as well as breaching the law for sheltering homeless families in unsuitable accommodation for seven days or longer.

He added: “Given that the figures are showing that these councils are not meeting their statutory duties around this and given specific issues that families are experiencing, both in Edinburgh and in Glasgow, what other actions do ministers look to take, specifically in Edinburgh and Glasgow, given we are seeing increases when the rest of the country is seeing decreases?”

Statistics show that authorities in Edinburgh failed to find somewhere for 1,405 homeless households to stay from 2017 to September 2019 – and the situation was even worse in Glasgow.

Mr Stewart said: “I continue to discuss these matters with local authorities on a regular basis. I think it would be fair to say that I’m not particularly happy at some of the things that have gone on in the local authorities that Mr Briggs has mentioned.

“To be fair to both local authorities though, they are embarking on a significant amount of change. In Edinburgh I went to a supported accommodation housing, which I think is quite exceptional. It’s the kind of thing that needs to be replicated in other places.”

Cllr Kate Campbell, the council’s housing, homelessness and fair work convener, has pointed to welfare reforms from the UK Government as contributing to the problems and reiterated her commitment to find a permanent home for everyone in the city.

She added: “Unfortunately the number of children in all forms of temporary accommodation has gone up, and began increasing sharply when the two child cap came into existence. We know that welfare reform has pushed families into poverty, and we know that homelessness from the private rented sector is increasing in Edinburgh as homes become unaffordable to many.

“Taking families out of B&B is the number one priority for us and the numbers are down significantly from last year. We’ve done this by increasing the number of temporary flats available to families.

“Our ultimate priority is to help everyone experiencing homelessness into a permanent home as quickly as possible. The Rapid Rehousing Transition Plan, supported by the Scottish Government, sets out our long term plan on how to do this.”