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Young Scots struggle

January 04 2016
Young people in Scotland are losing out. © Shelter. Young people in Scotland are losing out. © Shelter.
A combination of unemployment, benefit sanctions and lack of affordable homes is to blame

More than 28,000 households in Scotland were assessed as homeless last year, with more than 10,000 people in temporary accommodation at any given time, according to a report released in December.

The figures come as a disappointment after a new preventative approach known as ‘Housing Options’, which was intended to help authorities tackle homelessness from the earliest stages, but it’s also put more pressure on housing services.

Stats show that more than one in five young Scots are living in poverty – the largest proportion of any age group, and the only group whose poverty rates have increased over the past decade.

The worsening situation for Scottish people under 30 is being blamed on a combination of unemployment, benefit sanctions and lack of affordable homes.

In 2012, Scotland put in place new laws which require all homeless people to be treated equally, forcing councils to provide equal support to families as they do to individuals.

But homeless charity Crisis, which released the statistics in collaboration with the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF) in 2015’s Homelessness Monitor Scotland report, says Scotland risks slipping backwards.

The state-of-the-nation study tracked the impact of economic and policy developments on homelessness in the country.

“The Scottish Government has blazed a trail when it comes to tackling homelessness, but there’s no room for complacency,” said Jon Sparkes, chief executive of Crisis.

“More needs to be done to support young homeless people, who are at particular risk from welfare cuts, while the proportion of people who are homeless and have complex needs such as mental health problems and substance dependency appears to be growing.”

Crisis is calling for a new strategy to ensure the prevention method is working, particularly for those affected by changes to the welfare system, and ensure that temporary accommodation such as B&Bs are used for a maximum of 14 days at a time.

The Scottish government has plans to build more affordable homes but Julia Unwin, chief executive of JRF, said a faster solution is needed.

She said: “JRF supports the UK government’s long-term aim of a higher pay economy with lower need for welfare, but reducing benefits before new homes are built and higher wages have the chance to plug the gap will leave many low-income households struggling to make ends meet.”

A UK government spokesman said: “This government’s long-term plan to move to a higher wage, lower welfare economy is working – the number of people in in-work poverty is 200,000 lower than at its peak in 2008–09, there are a record number of people in work and wages are rising.

“The government is increasing work incentives by committing to three million more apprenticeships, extending free childcare, boosting earnings through a new National Living Wage and ensuring people keep more of what they earn by increasing the personal allowance.”

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