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Scottish Charity Register No. SC043760

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Homeless numbers reach lowest level in ten years

March 06 2012
 The 2012 commitment gets closer in Scotland, but can more be done?


The 2012 commitment gets closer as Scotland records its lowest homeless figures in a decade, but can more be done?

New Scottish government statistics have shown a 20 per cent drop in homelessness applications and assessments on 2011 figures, taking the Scottish government closer to its commitment to provide every homeless person with a permanent home by 2012.

Last year there were 23,796 applications made to local authorities for assistance under homelessness legislation, and 24,209 homelessness assessments.

In what was described as “encouraging” by Scottish Housing Minister Keith Brown, reductions in the number of individuals who became homeless were recorded in 28 of the 32 local council areas. Aberdeen City and the Borders jointly headed the list with an incredible 56 per cent fall. Brown said: “These encouraging statistics show that we are within touching distance of meeting the 2012 homelessness target.

“The dramatic decrease in applications is likely to be a consequence of changes in how local authorities help households who approach them for assistance.”

Graeme Brown, director of leading Scottish charity Shelter Scotland, expressed delight in the ‘great news’, but was quick to outline his ongoing concern: “A 20 per cent reduction in homeless applications compared to this time last year is great news and I congratulate the majority of local authorities across Scotland who have made huge progress on homelessness.

“However, this success should not blind us to the scale of Scotland’s ongoing housing crisis. Nearly 50,000 people still presented as homeless in the last 12 months so this progress needs to be a catalyst for even greater change.”

Nine councils have so far satisfied the criteria of the 2012 commitment: that 100 per cent of their homeless households are considered as “priority need’ in accessing settled accommodation. Even although a further 11 are meeting this target in at least 90 per cent of cases, this still leaves the remaining 12 councils lagging behind.

Speaking to The Pavement, Keith Robertson, managing director of Edinburgh-based charity Fresh Start, described the decreasing figures as “welcome news’, but stressed the need for continued funding from councils to support the settlement service: “There are still thousands of people affected by homelessness, and I also think that in the current [economic] climate, people losing their jobs will mean more and more strain on individuals’ finances, which may lead to new instances of homelessness.

“Fresh Start is still encountering large numbers of vulnerable people who are homeless. This drop-in figures has not affected the demand for our service; we still find ourselves inundated.”

He added: “As well as the councils’ focus on reducing the figures, they must continue to make funds available to support the settlement service in helping people make a success of their tenancy and make this transition as painless as possible. This is a very traumatic process for individuals.”