Homelessness in Scotland: update to 30 September 2023

This statistics bulletin provides information on homelessness in Scotland in the six-month period from 1 April 2023 to 30 September 2023, alongside historical data.

Temporary Accommodation

Key Points

  • households spent an average of 216 days in temporary accommodation
  • 1,575 instances of households not being offered temporary accommodation

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 15,625 households in temporary accommodation as at 30 September 2023. The placement level returns show that there were 16,165 temporary accommodation placements open at 30 September 2023 – 540 (3%) higher 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 period).

Reporting of temporary accommodation

Between April and September 2023, 24,077 temporary accommodation placements were entered and 23,741 were exited. This is a net difference of 336. This is not quite the same as the increase of 586 households in temporary accommodation between 31 March and 30 September 2023 from the HL2 data, however, this is likely due to the differences in the collections outlined above. Total number of placements 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?

Between April and September 2023, 11,927 households entered a first (ever) temporary accommodation placement. This may include households who made a homelessness application prior to this. Over the same period, 9,437 households exited their last (ever) temporary accommodation placement. A household is considered to have ‘exited’ temporary accommodation in a reporting period only if their homelessness case has closed and their last associated temporary accommodation placement is within that period.

These figures give a net difference of 2,490 (21%) more households entering temporary accommodation for the first time than exiting for the last time. This relates to the increase in the number of houseolds in temporary accommodation which can be seen in the snapshot figure, although the numbers will not match given the differences outlined above.

Edinburgh had the largest numerical difference with 547 more households entering than exiting. The next largest was Glasgow with a net difference of 454 more households entering than exiting.


What types of temporary accommodation are used?

The most commonly used temporary accommodation was local authority accommodation

Chart 7: Types of temporary accommodation used, as at 30 September 2023

Pie chart showing the types of temporary accommodation used as a proportion of all households in temporary accommodation, as at 30 September 2023The use of Bed & Breakfast accommodation experienced the largest increase from 1,473 households in September 2022 to 1,907 in September 2023 (29%).

Some local authorities noted the rise in the use of Bed & Breakfast accommodation has resulted from the increase in general demand for temporary accommodation.

The ‘Other’ category includes ‘newer’ types of temporary accommodation such as rapid access accommodation, community housing and shared tenancies, which can be deemed suitable.

Local authority (furnished), housing association and other temporary accommodation remain more commonly used for households with children compared to all households. Hostel and Bed & Breakfast accommodation are used much less for households with children.

How long do households spend in temporary accommodation?

For cases that closed between April and September 2023, where there was at least one temporary accommodation placement, households spent an average of 216 days in temporary accommodation.

How often do applicants refuse temporary accommodation?

A household can choose to refuse an offer of temporary accommodation made by the local authority. There were 3,610 refusals of temporary accommodation between April and September 2023. This is 30 (1%) less than the same period for 2022. 

How often do local authorities fail to provide temporary accommodation?

A local authority is required to indicate when they do not offer any temporary accommodation to a household and are therefore acting unlawfully.

Between April and September 2023, there were 1,575 instances of households not being offered temporary accommodation – 60 for April to June and 1,515 for July to September. This is a considerable increase from the 345 in the same period in 2022.

This large increase is attributed to Glasgow, who had 1,355 instances of not being able to offer temporary accommodation between July and September, compared to less than 5 in all previous quarters back to October to December 2020. Glasgow has noted this increase is due to the council reducing its use of Bed & Breakfast accommodation.

An additional seven local authorities reported at least one instance of not offering accommodation over the six month period in 2023. The next larget was Edinburgh (145), which has decreased from 325 in 2022. The others were Aberdeen City, Clackmannanshire, Falkirk, Fife, Highland and Stirling.

How often do local authorities breach unsuitable accommodation legislation?


Important! 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 and September 2023 there were 2,335 reported breaches of the unsuitable accommodation order (UAO) across twenty-two local authorities. This is a notable increase from the 1,555 reported in the same six month period in 2022.

Edinburgh accounted for the largest number of breaches (760). There were particularly large increase in the reporting of breaches for: Aberdeen City (from 5 to 245), Dumfries & Galloway (from less than 5 to 160); Dundee City (from less than 5 to 110); and West Dunbartonshire (from less than 5 to 70).

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 the vast majority of local authorities have been able to update their management information systems in line with the ehanced guidance in time for this publication, not all have.

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 as 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.


Email: homelessness_statistics_inbox@gov.scot

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