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Publication - Publication

Homelessness in Scotland: 2016-2017

Published: 27 Jun 2017
Part of:
Housing, Statistics
ISBN:
9781788510493

An overview of key trends and features of homelessness in Scotland from 2016 to 2017, as at 31 March 2017.

Contents
Homelessness in Scotland: 2016-2017
Applications

Applications

(Tables 1 to 10)

Changes over time

Changes in applications and assessments are in large part driven by changes in legislation, policy and practice.

The increase in homelessness between 2000/1 and 2006/7 was, in part, a consequence of Scottish homelessness legislation [4] which extended councils' duties to non-priority homeless households. The priority need test was abolished on 31st December 2012 [5] . Meanwhile, the number of homelessness applications decreased in recent years, mainly due to the impact of the introduction of Housing Options services in Scottish local authorities with a focus on prevention [6] .

Chart 1: Scotland: Number of applications and assessments under the homelessness legislation

Chart 1: Scotland: Number of applications and assessments under the homelessness legislation

Recent reductions

Between 1 April 2016 and 31 March 2017, Local Authorities received a total of 34,100 homelessness applications. This is a reduction of 826 (-2%) applications over the previous year. The number of applications has fallen in 16 out of 32 Local Authorities (Table 1).

Housing Options work

The underlying drivers of homelessness have remained largely the same over the past few years. However, the introduction of Housing Options work has resulted in a decrease in the number of homelessness applications.

Homelessness applications may increase again due to the implementation of recent Housing Options Guidance by the Scottish Government [7] . The guidance re-iterates that if section 28(1) of the Housing (Scotland) Act 1987 applies (this is the Local Authority's duty to inquire into cases of possible homelessness or threatened homelessness), the LA must complete a homelessness application and record this on an HL1 return.

Impact on Applications and Assessments

There is no evidence to indicate that any one group is being impacted more by housing options work than any other. However, what is evident is that there is marked variation among Local Authorities in the frequency and delivery of this work. Scottish Government policy has been for Local Authorities to define for themselves what Housing Options is. Further statistics on Housing Options are collected through the PREVENT1 return and are available at http://www.gov.scot/homelessstats.

The proportion of homelessness applications that have been through the Housing Options route first in 2016-17 varies considerably. This reflects the locally defined nature of Housing Options.

At the Scotland level, 19,678 out of the 34,100 homeless applications (58%) received during 2016-17 had made a Housing Options approach prior to (or on the same day as) making a homelessness application. This varied widely amongst LAs, from none in Eilean Siar, to 99.6%% in Glasgow City ( Chart 2). For comparison in 2015/16, 62% of homelessness applications had made a Housing Options approach prior to (or on the same day as) making a homelessness application.

Chart 2: Proportion of homelessness ( HL1) applications where a Housing Options Approach (PREVENT1) was made first, 2016-17

Chart 2: Proportion of homelessness (HL1) applications where a Housing Options Approach (PREVENT1) was made first, 2016-17

Rough sleeping (Tables 2a and 2b)

Applications where a household member reported sleeping rough at least once during the last 3 months prior to application has reduced since 2002/03, from 13% of all applications in 2002/3, to 8% in 2016-17.

In 2016/17, 4% of applicants (1,500 in total or 125 per month on average) slept rough the night before applying for assistance ( Chart 3). Fife and Inverclyde had the highest proportions (9% in both Local Authorities). Dundee City had the next highest propotion at 8% (or 105 cases). West Lothian, South Ayrshire and Falkirk had the smallest proportions of homeless applicants sleeping rough the night before although this probably reflects that this question is not being routinely and consistently completed.

Chart 3: Percentage of homeless applicants in 2016-17 who slept rough the night before applying for assistance

Chart 3: Percentage of homeless applicants in 2016-17 who slept rough the night before applying for assistance

Prior circumstances of applicants

Of the 34,100 homelessness applications in 2016-17, 14,453 (42%) had been living with friends and relatives, while 12,062 (35%) had been living in their own accommodation (i.e. which they either rented or owned).

Chart 4: Prior housing circumstances of applicants 2015-16 and 2016-17

Chart 4: Prior housing circumstances of applicants 2015-16 and 2016-17

There were 6,354 applications from households living in the private rented sector, an increase of 55 applications (1%) compared to 2015-16 (Table 3). Whilst the proportion of applications from the private rented sector in Scotland has increased from 13% in 2007/8 to 19% in 2016-17, the number of applications decreased in every year between 2010/11 and 2015/16 but increased in 2016/17.

In contrast, the situation in England is very different. Households assessed as homeless who were living in the private rented sector account for 31% of all English homelessness assessments. The ending of an assured shorthold tenancy in England has been the most frequently occurring reason for the loss of last settled home for the last nineteen consecutive quarters [8] .

Characteristics of applicants

Over the past decade or so, the characteristics of applicants have not changed much, fluctuating at most by a few percentage points only. The majority of applicants tend to be single, younger males, of White Scottish ethnicity.

Of the 34,100 applications for assistance in 2016-17:

Age and gender (Table 6)

Almost a third of applications were from those aged 25 to 34 years (32% for both male and female). The proportion of total applicants for those aged 34 and under for males was 56%, and 63% for females. This has slightly decreased over time by a few percentage points (from 63% males and 69% for females in 2002-03 for example).

Household type (Table 7)

Two-thirds of applications (66%) were from single person households, of whom 46% were men and 21% were women. Around 28% of applications were from households with children. There were 21% of applications from single parent households, most of which were from females (80% of single parent applications)

The proportion of single parents has remained in the range 21% to 24% since 2002-03.

Ethnicity (Table 8)

89% of applicants were of White ethnicity (78% were of White Scottish ethnicity). This is consistent with the ethnicity distribution of Scotland as shown in Scotland's Census 2011. The proportion of those identifying themselves as in Other ethnic group has increased over time, from about 1% in 2002-03 to about 4% in 2016-17.

Other

About 2% were previously a member of the Armed Services (Table 4). Around 6% were formerly looked after by a Local Authority in Scotland (Table 5). Proportions of applications from these groups have largely remained the same in the past decade or so, although the actual numbers have reduced in line with overall reductions in applications.

Reasons for homelessness

(Table 9a and 9b)

The main reasons cited for having to leave prior accommodation have remained largely unchanged since 2007/08. Being asked to leave is one of the main causes of homelessness applications (25%). Dispute within the household (and relationship breakdown) is another key driver of homelessness. In 2016/17, 12% and 18% of homelessness applications come from those who have been through a violent or non-violent domestic household dispute respectively.

Some applicants (4% of all homelessness applications in 2016/17) reported that their accommodation was no longer available due to such things as rent arrears or mortgage defaults. Meanwhile, 6% of applications are from those leaving prison/ hospital/ care or some other institution.

Chart 5: Main reason for applying for assistance: All applications: Scotland: 2015-16 & 2016-17

Chart 5: Main reason for applying for assistance: All applications: Scotland: 2015-16 & 2016-17

As the causes of homelessness can be complex and not the result of a single incident or event, 60% of applications cited additional reasons (20,552 out of 34,100 applications during 2016/17) (See Chart 6 and Table 10):

45% cited that their reason for homelessness was 'not to do with the applicant household'. This includes reasons such as the landlord selling the property, fire, circumstances of other persons sharing the property or harassment by others.

Other cited factors to note include 'mental health reasons' (20%), 'financial difficulties, debt or unemployment' (16%), and 'Drug/ alcohol dependency' (14%).

Chart 6: Reason(s) for failing to maintain accomodation: Scotland

Chart 6: Reason(s) for failing to maintain accomodation: Scotland

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