B Households assessed as threatened with homelessness
B.1 A person is threatened with homelessness if it is likely that he/ she will become homeless within two months. When a person or household is threatened with homelessness, or potentially homeless, the local authority has a duty to take reasonable steps to try to ensure that the household retain their present accommodation. The characteristics and experiences of potentially homeless households will significantly overlap those of households for whom effective prevention activity is possible.
B.2 In 2005-06, just under 6,000 households were assessed as potentially homeless - comprising 10% of all assessments in the period. It is striking that the number of households assessed as potentially homeless has not changed greatly since the mid 1980s, running at around 5,000 - 6,000 per year over most of the period. In the same period the number assessed as homeless has increased from around 10,000 in 1986-87 to over 35,000 in 2005-06 (Chart B1). This may suggest that the types of circumstance which lead to a household being threatened with homelessness have not changed markedly in the period. Other issues, such as gradual changes in recording practice may also be a factor. These possibilities are discussed further in the analyses below.
Chart B1: Number of households assessed as homeless and as potentially homeless: Scotland 1986-87 to 2005-06
Types of household assessed as potentially homeless
B.3 The proportion of potentially homeless households is significantly higher among couples and households with children than for single person households (Chart B2). Such groups are more likely to be established households whose housing needs arise from changes in circumstances which can be anticipated.
Chart B2: Potentially homeless households as a percentage of all households assessed as homeless or potentially homeless by household type: Scotland 2005-06
B.4. A comparison of changes in the numbers of potentially homeless by household type since 1990-91 shows that numbers within each broad household type have remained fairly steady (Chart B3). In particular, it is notable that the number of single potentially homeless has remained constant over the period while the number of single homeless increased by a factor of four (Table B1).
Table B1 Single homeless and potentially homeless
Homeless or potentially homeless
% potentially homeless
Chart B3: Number of potentially homeless households by household type: Scotland
B.5 While the Scottish total of potentially homeless has remained broadly constant over the period there have been some significant changes in numbers recorded as potentially homeless at local authority level. Table B2 compares the numbers recorded as potentially homeless in 1996-97 and 2005-06 by council area. For many councils, including Glasgow and Edinburgh the numbers have not changed a great deal. However, for some such as Aberdeen and Dundee numbers assessed as potentially homeless have increased or decreased significantly. This, coupled with the very low numbers in some council areas suggests that there may be differences in recording practice between councils.
Table B2 Number of potentially homeless households in 1996-97 and 2005-06
Argyll & Bute
Dumfries & Galloway
Edinburgh, City of
Perth & Kinross
Main reason for homelessness
B.6 The homelessness statistics system records the main reason for their homelessness given by applicants when they apply for assistance. Chart B4 shows the reasons given ranked by the proportion potentially homeless giving the reason. Reasons with high proportions of potentially homeless tend to be associated with circumstances where impending homelessness might be anticipated - such as loss of a tenancy with armed services or loss of private sector tenancy. Reasons with low proportions of potentially homeless are, in part, associated with circumstances - such as harassment/ dispute/ loss of temporary accommodation - where there may be less potential to anticipate and prepare for impending homelessness.
B.7 Within this overall pattern, it is striking that the potentially homeless are a low proportion of those who are homeless because of loss of a local authority tenancy, or loss of other social sector tenancy. Potentially homeless comprised about 12% of those who had applied for assistance through loss of a local authority tenancy, while potentially homeless comprised over 30% of those applying for assistance because they had had lost a private sector tenancy. It may be that tenants of local authorities are less able to anticipate impending homelessness, or are more reluctant to approach their local authority for assistance. Alternatively, local authority tenants in danger of losing their tenancy may be more likely to be assisted in ways which avoid the need to apply for assistance from the homelessness service.
B.8 Similar issues arise from the fact that the potentially homeless comprise only 7% of those who apply for assistance (as homeless or potentially homeless) because of discharge from hospital or prison. Useful indicators of success in preventing homelessness in these groups could include both reductions in the total number homeless and - within the homeless/ potentially homeless totals - higher proportions potentially homeless.
Chart B4: Reasons for homelessness where potentially homeless comprise over 25% of homeless and potentially homeless applicants giving this reason: Scotland 2005-06
B.9 Potentially homeless households were significantly more likely to have come from the family home than homeless applicants in general. In 2005-06, around two thirds of potentially homeless applicants came from the family home compared with around half of homeless households. (Chart B5).
Chart B5: Homeless and potentially homeless households who came from the family home: Scotland 2005-06
B.10 Under homelessness legislation, all households with children are assessed as in priority need. Among households assessed as potentially homeless, those without children are less likely to be assessed as in priority need (Chart B6).
Chart B6: Percentages of homeless and potentially homeless households assessed as in priority need by household type: Scotland 2005-06
Outcomes of applications
B.11 The effectiveness of the response to an application for assistance from a potentially homeless household can be assessed by:-
- The extent to which the factors leading to the threat of homelessness have been resolved and the household remained in, or returned to their previous accommodation;
- In cases where this is not possible, the extent to which alternative accommodation was found; and
- In both these instances whether an outcome was secured before the household became homeless.
B.12 For households in priority need the outcomes for homeless and potentially homeless households were very similar - over 70% of both groups secured a permanent let, mainly in social housing. Potentially homeless households in priority need were a little more likely to return to their previous accommodation, but significantly less slightly to be placed in temporary accommodation as the outcome of their application (Chart B7).
B.13 For those not in priority need, potentially homeless households are significantly more likely to return to their previous accommodation and much less likely to be placed in temporary accommodation as the outcome of their application (Chart B7).
Chart B7: Housing outcomes for homeless and potentially homeless applicants whose case was closed in 2005-06: Scotland
B.14 Of the 5,078 potentially homeless households whose case was closed in 2005-06, a high proportion - 62%- did not become homeless before the council discharged its duty. Of the 1,875 who did become homeless, 571 were placed in temporary accommodation by the council at some stage in their application 4 (Table B3).
Table B3 Number of potentially homeless applicants who did/ did not become homeless prior to discharge of the council's duty: 2005-06
Percentage of all potentially homeless
Number of potentially homeless households
Number who did not become homeless prior to discharge of duty
Number who became homeless prior to discharge of duty
Number who were placed in temporary accommodation at some stage of their application.
B.15 The extent to which authorities were able to resolve cases before potentially homeless households became homeless varies widely between councils. As noted earlier, numbers of potentially homeless households recorded varies widely between councils. Chart B8 shows, for those councils with a significant number of potentially homeless households identified in 2005-06 (more than 100 cases), the proportion of households who did not become homeless before their case was resolved. The variation is quite marked, ranging from nearly 100% in South Lanarkshire to under 20% in East Lothian. It is notable that the councils with the highest proportions who became homeless prior to discharge of duty - East Lothian, Perth & Kinross and Edinburgh - are areas with significant affordable housing pressure.
B.16 As might be expected, a relatively high proportion of households which did not become homeless retained their accommodation. Otherwise, outcomes were similar .for both groups (Chart B9).
Chart B8: Percentage of potentially homeless who did not become homeless before discharge of duty: 2005-06
Chart B9: Outcome of application for potentially homeless household who did/ did not become homeless before discharge of duty: Scotland 2005-06