Homelessness in Scotland: update to 30 September 2022

This statistics bulletin provides information on homelessness in Scotland in the six-month period from 1 April 2022 to 30 September 2022, alongside historical data.

Notes on tables

All of the tables and charts in this publication are available in electronic format on the supporting documents page.

The statistics included in this publication are based on administrative data collected by local authorities in the course of carrying out their homelessness activities. This data is collected from local authorities and quality assured by the Scottish Government on a quarterly basis. Details about the data we collect, our quality assurance process, and how we engage with users to improve our statistics are outlined in our quality assurance statement.

Data Protection Impact Assessment and Quality Assurance Statement for HL1, HL2, HL3 and PREVENT1 data collections

Updates to previous statistics

The data we use in this publication is collected from local authorities on a quarterly basis. As a result these figures are updated on an ongoing basis and may differ from those previously published. This may be a result of delays in some cases being reported to the Scottish Government due to IT issues, quality assurance processes and delayed entry of data – particularly at the end of the financial year.

For example, this publication estimates that 9,503 homeless applications were made in January to March 2022, but our annual ‘Homelessness in Scotland: 2021 to 2022’ publication gave a figure of 9,220. This is a difference of 283 applications, or approximately 3%. A table comparing the annual number of applications is included in the tables accompanying this publication.

Known data quality issues

There are other data quality issues of which we are aware:

  • there are a small number of temporary accommodation cases on the Scottish Government temporary accommodation placement database that are recorded as open but are linked to homelessness applications that we know to be closed. This occurs when a local authority fails to provide an update for these cases after the placement is closed. In these cases we have taken the approach of using the close date of the homelessness application as the exit date of the temporary accommodation placement. This may have the impact of inflating the length of time these households are recorded as using temporary accommodation.
  • snapshot data about temporary accommodation provided by Fife and Orkney do not include all temporary accommodation placements used, and therefore understates the number of households in temporary accommodation within these councils.
  • there are inconsistencies between local authorities in the reporting of breaches of the Homeless Persons (Unsuitable Accommodation) (Scotland) Order 2020. From May 2020 to September 2021 exceptions were put in place in response to COVID-19 which caused confusion for some local authorities, particularly around when the extension of the legislation (from only households with pregnant women and/or children to all) should commence. Local authorities were able to capture different levels of information regarding breaches around this time (i.e. whether an exception could or could not be applied) which has implications for data comparability. In May 2022, enhanced guidance was issued to provide clarity around the reporting of breaches. It was anticipated that this should relate to all data from 1 April 2022, however, not all local authorities have managed to correctly implement changes to management information systems as yet, and therefore over the transition period, there will remain inconsistency and inaccuracies within the data.
  • a new Private Sector Lease (PSL) contract which started on 1 April 2020 allows Edinburgh council to use PSL accommodation for immediate access temporary accommodation placements, which they were unable to do before. This has resulted in cases remaining open with associated PSL temporary accommodation placements, which previously would have been closed and re-opened. This explains the noticeable increase in the number of temporary accommodation placements within Edinburgh from 2,010 at 31 March 2020 to 2,824 at 31 March 2021 to 3,316 at 31 March 2022. Edinburgh provided Private Sector Leasing in their temporary accommodation statistics for the first time to be included in the annual 2021/22 publication, backdated to 1 April 2020. Please note, Edinburgh figures have been updated since the 2021/22 annual publication as a result of continued quality assurance, which uncovered further discrepancies between the aggregate and placement level returns.
  • West Dunbartonshire council recently experienced data issues which has led to duplication of temporary accommodation placement records. This has resulted in discrepancies in the HL3 placement data collection compared to the HL2 snapshot data for the last three quarters. January to March 2022 was the worst affected with a discrepancy of 24%. Recent quality assurance efforts have reduced the difference to between 6% and 7% in the latest two quarters. Removing these duplicates completely is an on-going process and West Dunbartonshire placement level data for the most recent three quarters should be treated with caution until this issue is fully resolved.

Comparability with other UK homelessness statistics

Because of the substantial differences in legislative frameworks and data collection methods that exist across the UK care needs to be taken in comparing homelessness statistics across the four countries.

In September 2019 the Office for National Statistics published the UK homelessness: 2005 to 2018 report, which assessed the comparability and coherence of existing UK government homelessness data sources.

Also published in September 2019, the GSS Homelessness Interactive Tool allows users to explore the similarities and differences between how key concepts relating to homelessness are defined across the four UK countries. It allows users to explore an applicants’ process through each of the different homelessness systems and enables users to visualise the different definitions of homelessness currently being used for official statistics and how these compare.

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