Shelter says huge homelessness falls simply aren’t possible
Homeless figure doubts
The head of Shelter in Scotland has said official homelessness figures for the country misrepresent the true scale of the problem.
Graeme Brown, director of Shelter Scotland, wrote in a letter to Inside Housing this week that it is ‘simply not credible’ that homelessness had fallen by 20 per cent across Scotland in the space of 12 months, even if council figures say the number of homelessness applications they have received has dropped dramatically.
‘I am almost certain that changes in recording practice are the biggest single reason [for the fall],’ he said.
Scottish Government figures for homelessness applications, published in February, 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.
A spokesperson for Scottish Borders Council gave this approach as the reason it recorded a 56 per cent fall. But 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.
‘Significantly fewer of the households who approach the service are choosing or needing to make use of the statutory assessment route,’ he added.
Alastair Cameron, chief executive of Scottish Churches Housing Action, said: ‘It’s obviously good if the homelessness figures are going down but not if that’s statistical manipulation.’
A spokesperson for the Scottish Government, which has pledged to end homelessness by the end of 2012, said: ‘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.’