Number of children in Edinburgh's temporary housing rises in last year, finds new report

FAMILIES housed in temporary accommodation spend more than a year waiting to be moved on to a permanent home in the Capital, according to new figures.

Wednesday, 26th June 2019, 5:43 pm
The number of children in temporary housing in Edinburgh rose by around 15 per cent in the last year, a Scottish Government report has found.

Housing charities have warned more than 1,200 young people face being left “in limbo” after data released by the Scottish Government revealed the number of children currently living in hostels, B&Bs or other interim accommodation rose by more than 15 per cent in the last year.

The annual report found the number of people declared homeless in Edinburgh fell slightly over the last 12 months, however over 1,500 were found to be living in temporary housing - the highest level reported since 2002.

It comes just days after the Evening News reported the Council spent more than £43 million in the 2018-19 financial year in an effort to meet a legal duty obligating the authority to take in those who present as homeless - including a £14m spend on B&Bs and shared accommodation.

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Despite the rise in those housed in temporary accommodation, there was a slight decrease in the number of people presenting as homeless.

And the local authority was also found to have contravened the Unsuitable Temporary Accommodation Order 465 times out of 620 rule breaches recorded across the country in 2018 - making the Council responsible for 75 per cent of such complaints.

Susie Higgins, Shelter Scotland Edinburgh Community Hub Manager, said: “The situation in Edinburgh is particularly alarming where hundreds of children are enduring terrible disruption to their lives which will be affecting their health and their life chances."

“Edinburgh is one of only a handful of councils struggling to meet the new tougher unsuitable temporary accommodation order. It has by far the worst track record on this in Scotland and means children are living in bed and breakfasts which is no place to grow up.”

The report stated a couple with children waited an average of 379 days to be moved out of temporary housing after declaring themselves as homeless.

However, it did also note the number of people presenting as homeless marginally decreased, falling one per cent from 3,277 to 3,229.

Crisis Chief Executive Jon Sparkes, who chaired the Scottish Government’s homelessness and rough sleeping action group, branded the figures "deeply concerning," adding: “We know just how damaging and demoralising these long-term stays can be. Every day we hear from people left isolated because they’ve been subject to a curfew or had their visitors restricted, and from those forced to live in sub-standard conditions with nowhere to cook or wash their clothes."

"No one should have to live like this.

“The Scottish Government has shown they are world leaders in tackling homelessness through their 'Ending Homelessness Together' plan. This included an important commitment in principle to limit the amount of time people stay in unsuitable temporary accommodation to seven days, but we urgently need to see this pledge made into law so that no one is left to needlessly suffer a life in limbo.”

Nationally, homeless applications rose from 35,573 to 36,465 - an increase of three per cent.

However, there were decreases reported across the Lothians, falling by one per cent in East and West Lothian and 13 per cent in Midlothian.

Cllr Kate Campbell, Housing and Economy Convener, said: “Our Rapid Rehousing Transition plan sets out a roadmap to eliminating the use of temporary accommodation. We don’t want anyone living in temporary accommodation, least of all children and people who are exceptionally vulnerable."

“Unfortunately this will take time because of pressures on housing, high rents, welfare reform and the fact that we have only 15 per cent social housing in the city compared to a national average of 24%.

“Ultimately we have to build more social homes, which is why our commitment to building affordable 20,000 homes over the next ten years is so important. But we also need to prevent homelessness wherever possible and help people into other forms of settled accommodation when it’s suitable for them. That’s why innovative initiatives like our Rent Deposit Scheme which we are delivering in partnership with Crisis also have a vital role, as well as a clear focus on support and prevention.

“And while we are working towards ending the use of temporary accommodation we’re also improving it. We’ve moved from a B&B model to shared housing so people can access a kitchen, food storage and a washing machine. And we’re increasing the number of temporary flats available alongside supported accommodation."

She added: “But we can’t ignore the role of the cruel welfare reform agenda, and particularly the benefits cap, which has increased pressure on low income families and increased the risk of homelessness. The number of children in temporary accommodation more than doubled in the two years after the 20k cap was introduced. If the Tories want evidence of how their policies are destroying lives they need look no further.”