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Scottish Charity Register No. SC043760

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Homeless drop “not credible”

May 10 2012
Director of Shelter Scotland says unemployment figures and benefit cuts make figures virtually impossible


The director of a major homeless charity believes that a 20 per cent drop in homelessness across Scotland, reported by the Scottish Government earlier this year, is “simply not credible”.

Graeme Brown, director of Shelter Scotland, made the comments in an article for a national newspaper where he also claimed it would be virtually impossible to see a decline in homelessness whilst unemployment figures run high and benefits continue to be cut.

Scottish Government figures for homelessness applications, published in February this year, showed an average 20 per cent fall between April and September 2011 and that period in 2010 from 29,796 to 23,796.

Some councils saw falls by as much as 56 per cent.

Twenty of Scotland’s 32 councils use a homelessness prevention service in which councils assess and re-house people instead of them applying as homeless.

Scottish Borders Council gave this approach as the reason it recorded a 56 per cent fall. However, it confirmed that the number of households requesting homelessness advice was up more than 20 per cent between 2010/11 and 2011/12 from 870 to 1,070.

A spokesperson for Scottish Borders Council added: “Significantly fewer of the households who approach the service are choosing or needing to make use of the statutory assessment route.

“I am almost certain that changes in recording practice are the biggest single reason for the fall”.

The Scottish Government, which is now only eight months away from its targeted deadline to end homelessness by 2012 commented: “Homelessness applications have dropped significantly in Scotland as local authorities are preventing homelessness happening in the first place.

“That demonstrates clearly that working hard on prevention does gets to the root of ending homelessness.”

Shelter’s director remains sceptical and cautiously adds: “I really want to believe that homelessness has fallen by as much as 20 per cent. But I am almost certain that changes in recording practice are the biggest single reason.

“If we can demonstrate that people are getting a real service without being labelled homeless, then I’ll raise a glass to real progress. Otherwise I suggest ministers and council leaders should leave the champagne on ice.”