Heartbreaking: Homelessness among children in Scotland rises 22% over 3 years

Homelessness can happen so easily. All it takes is for a landlord to decide to sell the home you have always lived in and you have nowhere to go.

If you are a child in temporary accommodation, your toys and all of your family’s furniture will be in storage. There will be no tree to put presents under.  

You could be in a bed and breakfast with all your family in one room with nothing to cook on. You could be in a cold, damp flat somewhere you don’t know.

You could be moved somewhere else at a moment’s notice.

You’ll be away from your friends.

Imagine what that does to your sense of security and wellbeing. It’s going to damage your health, both physical and mental and harm your development.

That’s hard enough at any time of year but at Christmas it’s devastating.

I’m furious that every year the number of children going through this goes up. We cannot stand for this. Both Scotland’s Governments should be ashamed of themselves

Every Christmas, the Scottish Lib Dems ask Scottish Ministers how many children are included in live homelessness applications. This year’s see yet another rise. 12,858 children are in some sort of temporary accommodation at this time. That’s about a fifth of the size of the town where I live and it’s a 22% rise on 2015’s figures.

Both Scotland’s governments really need to get on with ending this misery. The SNP has to stop making excuses and build more social housing and ensure councils have resources to fix poor housing. There are thousands of neglected and vacant properties across the country which, with the right incentives, could be renovated to boost the housing stock.

The Conservatives need to stop cruel social security policies which make people homeless. The benefit cap,  two-child policy and the benefits freeze are particularly to blame. Universal Credit will mean that families stand to lose hundreds of pounds a month unless it’s properly funded.

We have to make sure that everyone has a warm, safe place to live. I don’t think it is particularly ambitious to say that. If a Government can’t fulfil the basic needs of its people, then there is something far wrong. It’s disgraceful that people in a country as well off as ours are struggling to obtain food and shelter. We don’t just have to demand better, we have to achieve better.

 

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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4 Comments

  • Mike Norman 23rd Dec '18 - 4:31pm

    Caron,
    As a housing solicitor acting on behalf of tenants facing eviction and applicants trying to access homelessness services, this is a topic close to my heart. It is probably obvious to most of us reading these pages that people in poverty are a people oppressed: it is unfortunate we’re still fighting the ‘deserving/undeserving’ battles for people in need. I practice housing law in England and in Wales, where the Scottish model is seen at least as more progressive owing to its abandoning vicious ‘priority need’ and ‘intentional homelessness’ tests. All three jurisdictions have updated the law in the last five years.

    Neverthelesss, as you suggest, all these legislative changes however may prove ultimately to be barely a sticking plaster: in absence of a fundamental rethink in policy (and the right-wing obsession with conflating ”housing policy” and homeowning/assetbuilding) and a proper public spending commitment, we’re simply increasing the layers of process before stretched local authorities say to desperate applicants “sorry, we can’t help any further… ”

    These are the topics where we shouldn’t be afraid to be radical.

  • Of course more should be done to reduce homelessness in Scotland. A 22% rise in three years is not acceptable……. and of course it mirrors the implementation of Universal Credit as voted for by the UK Coalition government in 2013 whereby many private landlords refuse to let to welfare recipients. That is certainly the situation I recognise as Chair of a Foodbank in Scotland.

    However it is even worse in England and Wales where, according to Shelter, there has been an increase of 80% in numbers of children involved in homelessness since 2011. The SNP are not responsible for this – though it coincides with the austerity introduced by the Coalition government.

  • In Scotland, we are currently going through a budget process. The proportional system means the governing party needs the support of one other party to pass the budget.

    If the Scottish Liberal Democrats actually cared about this issue, they could have asked for increased spending on it in return for their support for the budget. They could then have had a win on the issue, had a real effect and a claim to becoming relevant again.

    Instead, do you know what they did? They wanted to ask the Scottish government to commit to not offering the people of Scotland a choice on whether they want an exit from brexit as an independent country. They put their obsession with unionism ahead of children, ahead of homelessness, ahead of hospitals, ahead of schools and ahead of everything else leaving the Greens as the only party engaging responsibly with the government in the budget negotiations.

    If you care about this issue then contact your Lib Dem MSPs and urge them to engage more constructively in the budget negotiations and prioritise it ahead of trying to deny the people a democratic chance to change their mind.

  • Al makes a fair point. The six Greens appear to be behaving in a much more constructive way.

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