Homelessness in Scotland: 2022-23

This statistics bulletin provides information on homelessness in Scotland in the period from 1 April 2022 to 31 March 2023, alongside historical data.

Temporary accommodation

Key points in 2022-23

  • average total time in temporary accommodation for homelessness cases that closed in 2022-23 has increased to 223 days
  • households with children spend longer in temporary accommodation than those without (50% of households with children spent 7 months or more in temporary accommodation compared to 40% of households without children)
  • higher average times for open cases than closed cases across all household types
  • the number of cases where households were not being offered temporary accommodation has decreased to 445
  • the number of cases in breach of the unsuitable accommodation order has increased to 3,525 (to be treated with caution – see notes below)

Sources of temporary accommodation data

Since 2002, local authorities have provided aggregate snapshot information relating to households in temporary accommodation. While this allows trends to be explored over time, understanding around individual placements and how these relate to assessed households is not possible from the snapshot data. Therefore, since 1 April 2016 placement level information on households in temporary accommodation has been provided to enable a more rounded picture of the use of temporary accommodation.

The snapshot data shows 15,039 households in temporary accommodation as at 31 March 2023. The placement level returns show that there were 15,602 temporary accommodation placements open at 31 March 2023 – higher (563, 4%) than the snapshot returns. Differences may be explained by the returns including different types of temporary accommodation and the placement level returns experiencing a lag in cases being closed.

Both of these figures show households in temporary accommodation at a point in time and, as such, will include those who have recently entered temporary accommodation as well as those who have been in temporary accommodation for a longer period of time (including prior to the reporting year).

Reporting of temporary accommodation

Over 2022-23, 41,774 temporary accommodation placements were entered and 40,893 were exited. This is a net difference of 881, which is similar in magnitude to the increase in the snapshot figures of 825 to 15,039 in March 2023. This is a useful measure for showing the overall scale of temporary accommodation usage. However, placement level analysis alone provides limited insight due to the often very transient nature of the use of temporary accommodation. It is not unusual for households to enter and exit multiple placements, with or without gaps in between.

When considering certain aspects of temporary accommodation such as number of placements, average time spent in temporary accommodation etc., the true extent of this can only be fully understood once a household’s homelessness application has been closed. 

How many households entered temporary accommodation for the first time? How many exited for the last time?

In 2022-23, 22,503 households entered a first (ever) temporary accommodation placement. This may include households who made a homelessness application prior to this year. Over the same period, 19,100 households exited their last (ever) temporary accommodation placement. A household is considered to have ‘exited’ temporary accommodation in a reporting year only if their homelessness case has closed and their last associated temporary accommodation placement is within that year.

These figures give a net difference of 3,403 more households entering temporary accommodation for the first time than exiting for the last time. This relates to the increase in the number of households in temporary accommodation which can be seen in the snapshot figures. Although the numbers will not match given the differences outlined above.

The largest net increases are in Glasgow and Edinburgh with 797 and 754 more households entering than exiting, respectively.

How commonly used is temporary accommodation?

Nearly two thirds of homelessness applications require temporary accommodation

Chart 10: Number of temporary accommodation placements for applications closed in 2022-23

Donut chart showing the proportions of closed applications by number of temporary accommodation placements

There is variation in the number of placements between local authorities. All homeless households in Shetland had at least one temporary accommodation placement. This contrasts with 72% of homeless households in Angus that had no temporary accommodation placements. In Edinburgh, 18% of homeless households had five placements or more, much higher than any other local authority. Caution should be applied for local authorities where findings are based on small numbers.

What types of temporary accommodation are used?

Social sector accommodation is the most common type of temporary accommodation, in particular for households with children

Chart 11: Households in temporary accommodation, by type of accommodation, as at 31 March 2023

Two donut charts; one for all households, the other for households with children, showing proportions of different types of temporary accommodation

There has been an increase in the proportion of bed & breakfast accommodation for all households – from 9% as at 31 March 2022.

Data from the placement level data collection can provide further insight into the total use of temporary accommodation over the course of homelessness cases. However, it is difficult to make direct comparisons with the snapshot data (shown in Chart 11) as different categories of temporary accommodation are used between the two returns.

There were a total of 39,515 temporary accommodation placements associated with cases that closed in 2022-23. Of which, 38% were in local authority or housing association/registered social landlord (RSL) accommodation; 19% were in hostel accommodation; and 26% were in bed & breakfast accommodation.

The higher proportion of hostel and bed & breakfast accommodation in the placement level returns (46% vs 20%) indicates that these types of temporary accommodation are more frequently used than the snapshot data suggests. However, this can be explained by the fact that the average duration for stays in these types of accommodation is much shorter - for example, 43 days in bed & breakfast compared to an average of 114 days for all temporary accommodation – and therefore they account for a much smaller proportion of the overall use of temporary accommodation. See Chart 14 for average durations by accommodation type.

Data on the number of placements and average length of time will help improve understanding of the ways in which different types of temporary accommodation are used.

How long do households spend in temporary accommodation?

Average total time in temporary accommodation is increasing

Chart 12: Average total time (days) spent in temporary accommodation, for cases that closed: 2017-18 to 2022-23

Bar chart showing the average total time that households spent in temporary accommodation for the last six financial years (cases closed)

The more recent increases are likely a result of the previously mentioned backlog of cases and difficulties providing settled accommodation.

Note that total duration is calculated by summing the time a household spends in individual placements, excluding time between placements when a household is not in temporary accommodation. As a result the time a household spends in temporary accommodation may not be continuous.

Midlothian has the highest average time at 437 days, although this has reduced from 522 in 2021-22 and 613 in 2020-21. Other notably high durations in temporary accommodation are in Edinburgh (429 days) and East Lothian (423 days).

Perth & Kinross remains the local authority with the lowest average time in temporary accommodation (71 days), although this is an increase from 60 days the previous year. Notable decreases have been experienced in East Dunbartonshire (from 342 to 257 days) and Moray (from 136 to 101 days).

Average total time spent in temporary accommodation also varies by household type.

Households with children spend longer in temporary accommodation

Chart 13: Time households with and without children spent in temporary accommodation (for cases closed 2022-23)

Bar chart showing the proportion of households with and without children by length of time spent in temporary accommodation (cases closed)

[To note: information about individuals within temporary accommodation placements is not available from the placement level data. Household type has therefore been derived from the information provided on the homelessness application. This accounts for the difference in the number of households with children compared to the snapshot data return.]

Households spend the longest, on average, in private sector lease and housing association accommodation

Chart 14: Average duration (days) in temporary accommodation, by type of accommodation (for cases that closed in 2022-23)

Bar chart showing the average time spent in different types of temporary accommodation with a line showing the average time spent in all placement types

What about households that are still in temporary accommodation?

The time spent in temporary accommodation up to 31 March 2023 can also be calculated for homelessness cases that are still open.

Average time in temporary accommodation is longer for open cases than closed cases for all household types

Chart 15: Average total time (days) spent in temporary accommodation, for open and closed cases, by household type: 2022-23

Bar chart showing the average time spent in temporary accommodation by household type, for open and closed cases

How often do applicants refuse temporary accommodation?

A household can choose to refuse an offer of temporary accommodation made by the local authority. However, a household that has refused an offer of temporary accommodation may accept a subsequent offer.

In 2022-23, there were 7,005 cases of households refusing offers of temporary accommodation. This is a decrease of 75 (1%) compared to 2021-22. There were notable reductions in Glasgow (from 2,890 to 2,280), Fife (from 640 to 185) and North Ayrshire (from 115 to 15). Large increases were seen in Edinburgh (from 435 to 765), Aberdeen City (245 to 505), Dumfries & Galloway (70 to 245) and North Lanarkshire (495 to 640).

How often do local authorities fail to provide temporary accommodation?

A local authority is required to indicate when they do not offer temporary accommodation to a household and are therefore acting unlawfully. During 2022-23, there were 445 instances of households not being offered temporary accommodation. This is a 38% decrease compared to 2021-22 (from 715). The majority of these cases were in Edinburgh (420).

How often do local authorities breach unsuitable accommodation legislation?



These figures should be treated with caution due to:

a) reporting anomalies and inconsistencies;

b) uncertainty caused by the extension of the Unsuitable Accommodation Order (UAO) legislation in May 2020; and

c) the existence of COVID-19 exceptions between May 2020 and September 2021.

See below for further details on these.

Between April 2022 and March 2023 there were 3,525 reported breaches of the unsuitable accommodation order (UAO). This is a notable increase from the 2,025 reported in 2021-22. It should be noted that there was a large increase in the number of breaches halfway through 2021-22 (from 410 between April and September to 1,615 between October and March), very likely due to the ceasing of the COVID-19 exceptions on 30 September 2021.

The extension of the legislation to all households will also impact these figures. Prior to May 2020, the UAO only applied to households with a pregnant member and/or children.

Twenty-three local authorities reported breaches in 2022-23. Edinburgh accounted for the most with 1,490 – much higher than the 795 the previous year. West Lothian (505), Fife (410), East Lothian (245), Aberdeen City (220) and Glasgow (190) also had a large number of breaches.

Reporting anomalies and inconsistencies

Increased scrutiny of the data brought about by changes in legislation and the introduction of COVID-19 exceptions uncovered anomalies and inconsistences in the reporting of breaches. Through this process, it became clear that this was exacerbated by a lack of consistent interpretation of unsuitable accommodation legislation and data collection guidance.

In May 2022, enhanced data collection guidance was issued to local authorities to clarify reporting requirements and, in turn, ensure consistency and improve quality. While many local authorities have been able to update their management information systems in line with the enhanced guidance in time for this publication, some have not.

In addition, some errors have been identified for local authorities who have implemented changes. This is to be expected over the transition period. The vast majority of errors identified have been corrected in time for publication, although there are still some outstanding.

Therefore, issues persist around comparability and correctness of this data.

Additional quality assurance processes have been incorporated to pick up errors quickly and close working with local authorities is ongoing to ensure that consistent reporting against updated guidance is implemented as quickly and correctly as possible.

Changes in legislation

Prior to 5 May 2020, a breach was encountered when a household with a pregnant member and/or child is in unsuitable temporary accommodation for more than 7 days. From 5 May 2020, this was extended to all households. Therefore, breaches figures before and from the 5 May 2020 are not comparable. To also note, this falls in the middle of a reporting quarter.

COVID-19 exceptions

Temporary exceptions were put in place to allow local authorities to provide households with accommodation in response to COVID-19. The legislation noted that a placement was not considered unsuitable if:

  • a person in the household has symptoms of coronavirus and the household requires to isolate; or
  • the accommodation is required to provide temporary accommodation to ensure that a distance of 2 metres can be maintained between a member of the household and a person who is not a member of the household in order to prevent the spread of coronavirus; or
  • the local authority is unable to place the household in suitable accommodation as a result of the impacts of coronavirus on temporary accommodation supply in the area, provided that where a household includes a child or a pregnant woman, the household is not placed in unsuitable accommodation for more than 7 days.

The first two of these came into effect in May 2020 and the third came into effect on 30 September 2020.

A household placed in unsuitable accommodation for longer than 7 days where an exception did not apply must still be recorded as a breach.

All exceptions ceased on 30 September 2021. Again, this means that data will not be comparable across the series.




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