EDINBURGH and West Lothian have recorded the biggest increase in Scotland in the number of households in temporary accommodation – despite an overall fall in homelessness applications.
New statistics showed there were 1044 households in temporary accommodation in Edinburgh on September 30 – the highest figure for two years and 68 more than the same time the previous year.
In West Lothian, there were 432 households in the same position – a 33 per cent increase since the same time the previous year and another two-year record. Both authorities also saw an increase in the number of homeless families with children in bed and breakfast accommodation – up from zero to ten in Edinburgh and from zero to 16 in West Lothian – and families with children in temporary accommodation officially classed as unsuitable – up from three to five in Edinburgh and from zero to 16 in West Lothian.
West Lothian also recorded ten breaches of the legislation covering the provision of housing for families with children.
But homelessness applications between July and September was down for both councils. In Edinburgh there were 823 such applications – down from 894 on the same period the previous year and in West Lothian the figure fell from 377 to 335.
Lothian Green MSP Andy Wightman welcomed the reduction in applications for homelessness assistance.
But he said: “The fact that homelessness still exists in such large numbers in a wealthy country is a national disgrace.
“The Scottish Government needs to assist children and families to find suitable accommodation because the temporary arrangements can often be inappropriate and cause indirect issues on the wellbeing of youngsters in schools.
“We already know that teachers, social and healthcare professionals report an increase in instances of anxiety and behavioural issues due to the stress and unfamiliarity of where they are placed.”
Statisticians attribute the fall in homelessness applications to the impact of local authorities adopting an approach to homelessness known as housing options, which focuses on prevention by exploring all possibilities to help those looking for housing.
A city council spokeswoman said: “It is good news the number of people presenting as homeless is decreasing. However, a shortage of affordable permanent accommodation has resulted in people remaining in temporary accommodation for longer than we would like.
“The council has an ambitious plan for the development of affordable new homes, together with a range of services to help people avoid becoming homeless or to support them in securing and maintaining tenancies.
A West Lothian Council spokesman said: “We fulfil our statutory obligation regarding supporting West Lothian residents who are experiencing homelessness. We have increased our temporary accommodation to help meet the true demand in West Lothian, so this figure has increased accordingly.”