The use of temporary accommodation in Scotland

For the third year running, Shelter Scotland carried out research into the use of temporary accommodation by local authorities and compiled a report of our findings. The data supplied by local authorities was augmented with statistics from the Scottish Government and the Scottish Housing Regulator’s Annual Return on the Charter.

The aim of the research is, as before, to increase our understanding of how temporary accommodation is used in Scotland. This is especially timeous as councils are facing significant restructuring to the way that they deliver temporary accommodation as a result of welfare reform. We acknowledge the difficulty of providing good quality temporary accommodation against such financial pressures and know that many councils provide excellent temporary accommodation while they assist households to find permanent housing.

However, local authorities are now faced with a difficult choice of quantity versus quality. We know that there is a growing need for temporary accommodation[1] and that the lack of affordable housing supply means that people are having to stay in temporary accommodation for prolonged periods of time, and this need must be met. However, keeping people in temporary accommodation is expensive, both for the local authority and for the household if they are working, and it is in the interests of both parties to find permanent housing as quickly as possible.

Shelter Scotland has repeatedly reiterated the need for good quality temporary accommodation, especially in the case of households with children. Temporary accommodation is a valuable stepping stone in a person’s journey toward settled permanent accommodation. However, prolonged stays in temporary accommodation can have major physical, mental and financial implications for that person and their children especially.

But what do we mean by “good quality” temporary accommodation? Aside from being in good physical condition, providing cooking and washing facilities and being free from harmful elements such as damp, Shelter Scotland and CIH produced a report[2]in 2011 suggesting that temporary accommodation should also be subject to standards around:

  • Location – this is particularly important if there are children in the household. Research[3] shows that the disruption caused by moving into temporary accommodation can have adverse impacts on children’s attendance at school as well as attainment, which is further impacted if they have to change schools as a result of moving. Otherwise, temporary accommodation should be located reasonably close to essential services, as travel is increasingly being highlighted as being a barrier to attending important appointments and subsequently being able to progress with life
  • Service – households should be provided with a consistent service as they use temporary accommodation, which should include an assessment of needs with regular reviews, access to a directory of services as well as communication in a format suited to the household
  • Management – temporary accommodation should be subject to good management standards, including the provision of a written occupancy agreement with specified minimum notice periods, clear accommodation rules, provision of storage of possessions while in temporary accommodation and information on the complaints procedure

Despite nearly six years passing since the publication of this report, we are still calling for these standards to be implemented. The Scottish Government is currently undertaking work to determine the amount of money that will be paid to each local authority as housing costs for temporary accommodation migrate to universal credit. Within this lies a valuable opportunity to improve the standards of temporary accommodation, which as our research shows, people are spending increasing amounts of time in and relying on in times of need.

 

 

[1] Scottish Government, Homelessness in Scotland Bi-annual update: 1 April to 30 September 2016

[2] Shelter Scotland, CIH Scotland (2011), Guidance on Standards for Temporary Accommodation

[3] Vostanis P, Grattan E, Cumella S, Winchester C (1997) Psychosocial functioning of homeless children Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 36 (7), 881-889; Vostanis P and Cumella S (1999) Homeless children: problems and needs

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Aoife Deery

Aoife Deery

Aoife Deery is a Policy Officer at Shelter Scotland.