SNP ministers have been accused of “a total dereliction of duty” after figures showed the average stay in temporary accommodation for homeless families with children has risen to almost a year.
New analysis of homeless statistics for 2020-21 has revealed that children are facing increasingly lengthy spells in temporary accommodation, with average stays increasing year on year since 2017-18.
Charity bosses have called for homeless households to be moved to permanent shelter “as quickly as possible”.
On average, a family with children now spends just shy of a year in temporary accommodation, with average stays now at 341 days – almost five months longer than a couple without children.
The data also shows that single parents typically wait an extra 53 days compared to households without children.
Scottish Labour has warned that this disparity is growing, with families being hit particularly hard by lengthening stays during the pandemic.
Since 2018-19, the average stay for single parents in temporary accommodation has increased by 25 days or 12 per cent, while couples with children have faced an astonishing 30% increase, with average stays rising by more than 2.5 months.
These are both well above the average increase of 16 days or 9% across all households.
Labour’s housing spokesperson, Mark Griffin, said: “These ever-growing stays in temporary accommodation are nothing short of disgraceful.
“Any civilised society should be getting children into proper homes as a matter of urgency – but we are falling woefully short.
“It is shameful that some children will go through the best part of an entire school year stuck in limbo.
“It is particularly unthinkable for children to face months on end in temporary accommodation, but it is a scandal for people of any age to have to endure this. “These spiralling stays represent a total dereliction of duty from the SNP.
“We need a real strategy for tackling homelessness, that doesn’t rely on endless stays in temporary accommodation.”
Chief executive of Crisis, Jon Sparkes, has praised the “remarkable action” by SNP ministers and local councils during the pandemic to cut the number of rough sleepers but has warned “the number of people pushed into homelessness and left trapped in temporary accommodation remains fair too high”.
He added: “We know how damaging spending long periods of time in temporary accommodation can be for someone’s mental health, as well as their personal relationships.
“People are given a roof over their head, but let’s be clear – temporary accommodation is not a home. That’s why they must be supported to move into a safe and stable home as quickly as possible.
“But it doesn’t have to be this way. Ultimately, the best way to end homelessness is to prevent it happening in the first place. That’s why we are calling on every party in the Scottish Parliament to back our call to strengthen the law around homelessness prevention and to introduce new duties on public services to ensure people receive the support they need, when they need it, to remain in their homes.”
Alison Watson, director of Shelter Scotland, labelled the number of families facing increasingly lengthy spells in temporary accommodation as “shocking”.
She said: “Life can be a nightmare for people in temporary accommodation with no safe, permanent place to live.
“It is disruptive both physically and mentally, often affecting relationships and impacting on children being able to do homework in a safe environment, being able to keep warm at night and so much more.“
Ms Watson added: “Scotland’s housing system is broken and biased. It is failing people. Hundreds of thousands of people are being held back by the lack of a proper home that would support them to flourish.
“We can only end Scotland’s housing emergency by increasing the supply of secure and affordable homes.
“We’re calling for the Scottish Government to build the new social homes that Scotland needs. Building more quality social homes in the right places will tackle the root cause of homelessness, reduce child poverty and inequality, improve health, create jobs, help Scotland meet its climate targets and support economic growth.”
A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “Temporary accommodation can offer an important emergency safety net for anyone who finds themselves homeless, but we recognise that it should be a purely temporary measure, particularly for families with children.
“Local authorities share our ambition to ensure stays in temporary accommodation are short-term, and we will be working with them to achieve this. For some councils it can take a long time to acquire an appropriate property to match a household’s particular needs.
“We are investing £37.5 million to support councils to prioritise settled accommodation for all as part of our aim that everyone has a warm, safe and affordable home. We also have a target of delivering 110,000 more affordable homes by 2032, with at least 70% for social rent, building on our record of delivering over 103000 affordable homes since 2007.”