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Homelessness in Scotland: 2022-23

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The extent of homelessness in Scotland

Key points in 2022-23

  • homelessness applications and households assessed as homeless continued to increase, and now surpass pre-pandemic figures
  • open homelessness applications and households in temporary accommodation are the highest in the time series
  • homelessness from private rented tenancies across the year is in line with pre-pandemic proportions, however, there is a notable decrease following cost of living legislation

Applications, assessments, and households in temporary accommodation

Table A: Homelessness applications, assessments and temporary accommodation 2019-20 to 2022-23
Measure 2019-20 2020-21 2021-22 2022-23 Change 2021-22 to 2022-23
Number Percent
Applications 37,053 34,345 35,759 39,006 3,247 9%
Assessed as homeless 31,618 28,100 29,339 32,242 2,903 10%
Households in temporary accommodation at 31 March 11,807 13,753 14,214 15,039 825 6%
Open homelessness applications at 31 March 22,754 24,489 25,731 29,652 3,921 15%

Table A shows that, compared to the previous year, homelessness applications (both new ones and open cases), households assessed as homeless, and households in temporary accommodation have increased.

The number of applications and households assessed as homeless now exceed pre-pandemic figures. These are the highest in the time series since 2012-13 and 2011-12 respectively.

The number of households in temporary accommodation and open homelessness applications as at 31 March 2023 have been increasing over the last few years and are now the highest ever across the time series.

Between 2019-20 and 2020-21 there was a marked reduction in applications and households assessed as homeless, largely explained by changes in service use as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, emergency COVID-19 legislation and a temporary ban on home repossessions. The increases over the last couple of years are likely due to the on-going impact of COVID-19, including the ceasing of emergency legislation, and the cost of living crisis.

Compared to the previous year, there was an increase in households becoming homeless from the private rented sector – from 4,271 to 5,190 (22%). Some local authorities have noted increases from the private rented sector as a result of landlords selling or increasing rent. However, there was a notable decrease between the first and last six months of the year. This is likely due to the cost of living legislation that was introduced in October 2022.

Households becoming homeless from a private rented tenancy have been reacting to changes in legislation

Chart 1: Number of households becoming homeless from a private rented tenancy, quarterly, 2018-19 to 2022-23

There has been negligible impact on the national increase in homelessness applications from Ukrainian displaced households. From 1 April 2022, there were 275 applications from Ukrainian displaced households – 0.7% of the national total. Nearly half of these were in Glasgow, where there was an overall reduction in applications. Data relating to Ukrainian displaced households has been made available in a separate workbook available on our supporting documents page.

The continued increase in the number of open homelessness applications and households in temporary accommodation has largely been attributed to the increase in applications and lack of availability/turnover of settled accommodation.  A small number of local authorities noted staff shortages and turnover having an impact also.

Number of households vs number of people

While data is provided and reported at household level, local authorities record the number of people associated with applications. It is therefore possible to understand how many people are affected by homelessness.

The 32,242 homeless households in 2022-23 contained a total of 53,111 people, comprising 36,848 adults and 16,263 children. Compared to the previous year, the number of adults increased by 11% and the number of children increased by 10%, in line with the overall increase of 10% in homeless households.

Sharper increase in the number of children in temporary accommodation compared to the number of households in the last year

Chart 2: Number of households, households with children and the number of children in temporary accommodation as at 31 March: 2018 to 2023

Line chart showing trends since 2018 in the number of households, the number of households with children and the number of children in temporary accommodation

[To note: data is collected through aggregate snapshot temporary accommodation returns for the number of children in temporary accommodation, but not the number of adults.]

Following the onset of the pandemic, there was a sharper increase in the number of households compared to the number of children in temporary accommodation (16% compared to 3% between 2020 and 2021). Between March 2020 and March 2023, there has been a 27% increase in the number of households in temporary accommodation and a 30% increase in the number of children in temporary accommodation.

Intentionality

Of the 32,242 homeless households in 2022-23, 31,732 (98%) were assessed as unintentionally homeless, with the remaining 510 assessed as intentionally homeless.

In November 2019, legislation changed to give local authorities the power to assess for intentionality, rather that it being a legal duty to do so. This explains the small proportions (1% since 2020-21) of all assessments that are intentionally homeless.

Longer term trends

Longer term trends in homelessness in Scotland are impacted by previous legislation, policy, and practice

Chart 3: Homelessness applications, assessments, open applications, and households in temporary accommodation: 2002-03 to 2022-23

Line chart showing long term trends in homelessness

Chart 3 provides a view of longer-term trends which have been experienced in homelessness. This shows the impact of previous legislation, policy, and practice, as well as the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020-21.

In 2001, Scottish homelessness legislation extended councils’ duties to non-priority need homeless households. Before 2002, the majority of homeless households in priority need were households with children. Following the 2001 extension duty there was a notable increase in the number of single people applying for homelessness assistance. These single people were also eligible for temporary accommodation. This can, at least in part, explain the increase from 2002-03. The priority need test was abolished on 31 December 2012.

The sharper decrease shown from 2009-10 is likely due to the impact of the introduction of Housing Options services in Scottish local authorities, with a focus on prevention.

From 2016-17, applications and assessments increased year on year until 2020-21 as a result of the pandemic. These have been increasing again since.

How does homelessness vary across Scotland?

Twenty-six local authorities reported an increase in homeless households compared to 2021-22. Twenty-one reported increases compared to 2019-20.

Glasgow city has experienced differing trends in applications over the last few years compared to most local authorities

Chart 4: Applications assessed as homeless, by local authority: 2019-20 to 2022-23

Bar chart showing the number of homeless households by local authorities over the last four financial years

Glasgow remains the local authority with the largest number of homeless households, although, in contrast to most other local authorities, has experienced a decrease compared to last year (424, 7%). Glasgow council have noted this is due to increased homelessness prevention work.

Edinburgh had the largest numerical increase with an additional 723 (28%) homeless households in the last year. This follows a particularly low number of homeless households in Edinburgh over 2021-22 and 2020-21. Edinburgh’s 2022-23 figures are still lower than 2019-20.

South Lanarkshire had the next largest numerical increases from the previous year (480, 29%) and from 2019-20 (389, 22%). Midlothian had the largest proportionate increase from last year (150, 39%).

Rates of homelessness and households in temporary accommodation

Comparing homelessness figures with the total number of households for each local authority (i.e. rates) provides a useful insight as to how homelessness varies across Scotland.

126 households per 10,000 in Scotland assessed as homeless

Chart 5: Households assessed as homeless compared to all households, by local authority: 2022-23

Bar chart showing the rate of homeless households in Scotland and local authorities per 10,000 households

[Please note that there has been a change to how these rates are calculated. These are now based on the number of households, as opposed to total adult population as used previously. The rates are therefore not comparable to those published for 2021-22.]

Interestingly, the local authorities with the highest rates of homeless households do not tend to be the highest for use of temporary accommodation, and vice versa. This implies some local authorities have a disproportionately high use of temporary accommodation, while others have a disproportionately low use.

Edinburgh has more than twice the national rate of households in temporary accommodation

Chart 6: Households in temporary accommodation compared to all households, by local authority: as at 31 March 2023

Bar chart showing the rate of households in temporary accommodation in Scotland and local authorities per 10,000 households

[Please note that there has been a change to how these rates are calculated. These are now based on the number of households, as opposed to total adult population as used previously. The rates are therefore not comparable to those published for 2021-22.]

Glasgow appears in the top three for both sets of rates.

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