Edinburgh’s homeless being sent to Motherwell as B&B use soars

The council's legal obligation means that sometimes homeless people have to leave the city to find a bed. Picture: Lisa Ferguson
The council's legal obligation means that sometimes homeless people have to leave the city to find a bed. Picture: Lisa Ferguson
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People presenting as homeless in Edinburgh are being shipped off to temporary accommodation as far away as Motherwell – amid emergency bed and breakfast use soaring by 14 per cent.

The city council has pledged to end homeless people spending the night in temporary accommodation – but the number of bed nights in B&Bs increased from 105,157 during the first six months of the 17/18 financial year to 119,497 over the same period this financial year.

The council has a legal obligation to provide accommodation for those who present as homeless in the city, but some people have been shipped out of the city on rare occasions – staying as far afield as Motherwell, Stirling and Falkirk.

The council has put in place a range of measures to improve the situation – including
a private sector leasing scheme – which can secure up to 1,750 properties for homeless people. In April, around 500 shared house bed spaces were acquired, as an alternative to B&Bs.

Adam Lang, head of policy at Shelter Scotland, said: “Shelter Scotland regularly hears from people who are offered accommodation that isn’t even in the city, particularly at busy times of the year such as August. We are also aware that families with children are being placed in B&Bs routinely and that many of them spend more than seven days in this type of accommodation which means the council has been breaking the law.

“While we acknowledge the council’s commitment to improve the standard of service it offers to homeless people and families, this issue will continue until there is a significant increase in the supply of affordable homes, particularly homes for social rent.”

The annual emergency accommodation expenditure for the city council during this financial year is expected to be more than £4.5 million. This accounts for around one quarter of the 2018-19 total forecast spend of £17.492m on commissioned temporary accommodation services.

Cllr Kate Campbell, housing and economy convener, said: “We don’t have enough affordable homes in the city and this means we do need to use temporary accommodation. There will be times when there are no spaces available and so we have to use accommodation that is not within the city.

“Our focus has been on providing more flats which are mean a better quality of life for people while they are in temporary accommodation. Ending B&B use is still the ultimate goal but, in our highly pressured housing market, it is a really big challenge.”