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The latest data shows that 10,567 households are in temporary accommodation in Scotland, including 4,923 children.

New research we published earlier this week suggests that 1 in 10 of these households will be there for over one year. On average, these 10,567 households will spend 23 weeks in temporary accommodation.

In 2014/15, 61% of households who applied to their local authority as homeless spent some time in temporary accommodation overall – an estimated 21,200 households. At an estimated 3.8 million days of temporary accommodation provided in 2014-15 across Scotland, this is a hugely expensive resource.

The provision of temporary accommodation is a marker of Scotland’s progressive homelessness legislation. People are entitled to temporary accommodation whilst their homelessness assessment is being processed, for a ‘reasonable period’ for them to find alternative accommodation if they’re deemed to be homeless through a ‘fault’ of their own, or until the local authority provides them with settled accommodation.

Temporary accommodation should be, and in many cases is, a crucial first step away from homelessness for households in a time of crisis. However, temporary accommodation should be just that – temporary. The longer you stay in temporary accommodation, the more impact it will have on your life. We know that children in temporary accommodation miss, on average, 55 days in every school year – equivalent to almost a full term.

Last year 11,105 homeless households spent time in a bed and breakfast (B&B)– more than any other type of temporary accommodation. This high number is concerning as B&B’s are the most disruptive form of temporary accommodation, often lack basic amenities such as cooking facilities. Acknowledging the often low standards in B&B’s, there are welcome restrictions on the use of B&B’s for families with children or pregnant woman. However, we are concerned about the damaging impact that time in these places can have on other vulnerable groups, such as people with mental health problems. On average, people who were placed in a B&B spent just over a month there. For many people this will have been an initial placement before being moved on to another type of temporary accommodation, increasing the disruption and dislocation to their lives.

From later in 2016 the ‘HL3 return’, in which local authorities provide information about temporary accommodation to the Scottish Government, will be mandatory. This should allow for local authorities and others to make more informed decisions about the use of temporary accommodation, and increase our understanding of what is happening across the board, as well as where certain local authorities are struggling to cope.

In the meantime, we use the knowledge shared in this report, and recommend that the Scottish Government officially endorse and support non-statutory guidance on standards in temporary accommodation to ensure that stays in temporary accommodation are positive. In addition, commitment must be made to the need for 12,000 affordable homes each year to help reduce long stays in temporary accommodation and to ensure that temporary accommodation can return to its original intention: a temporary stepping stone away from crisis.

For more information please contact Emma Dore, Senior Policy Officer emma_dore@shelter.org.uk

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