Homelessness in Scotland: 2019 to 2020

This statistics bulletin provides information on homelessness in Scotland in the period from 1 April 2019 to 31 March 2020, alongside historical data.

This document is part of a collection

A Quick Guide to the Homelessness Process

A household is homeless if they have no accommodation in the UK or elsewhere, or have accommodation but cannot reasonably occupy it. A household is threatened with homelessness if it is likley they will become homeless within two months.

There are three stages involved in a homeless application in Scotland:

1. The Application stage where the household first presents to the local authority.

2. The Assessment stage which determines:
a. whether the household is homeless or not;
b. if the household is homeless, whether this is ‘unintentional’ or ‘intentional’; and
c. if unintentionally homeless, whether there is a connection to the local authority to which the application was made and/or to any other (Scottish) local authority.

3. The Outcome stage. A case can be closed only once the local authority has fulfilled its statutory duty or contact has been lost for 28 days.

What is the statutory duty of the local authority?

If a household is unintentionally homeless, the local authority must offer settled accommodation. Until this is available, the local authority must offer temporary accommodation. 

If a household is intentionally homeless, the local authority has no statutory duty to provide settled accommodation (although they may choose to do so). There is a duty to provide temporary accommodation and advice and assistance to help the household secure alternative accommodation.

Temporary accommodation must be offered while the household is awaiting an assessment decision. 

The statutory duty lies with the local authority the household applies to. If a household has no local connection to the one to which it applied, but to another local authority, they may be referred.

A household can accept or refuse offers of accommodation. A local authority's duty to secure accommodation for unintentionally homeless people would be fulfilled by an offer that is refused, provided that the offer is a reasonable one.

More information on the duty local authorities have to assist people who are threatned with or experiencing homelessness can be found in the Code of Guidance on Homelessness.

A note on interpreting the figures

It is not possible to make direct links within a reporting year for the different stages of the homlessness process as different households will be at a different stage at different times.

That is, not all applications made in 2019/20 will have an assessment or temporary accommodation placement that year. Similarly, some assessments made in 2019/20 will relate to applications received prior to this; and some temporary placements in 2019/20 will relate to household applications and assessments prior to this also. Furthermore, there will be households who entered and exited temporary accommodation within the same reporting year, and therefore will not appear in the end of year snapshot. 

To also note:

  • that it is possible for households to make an application and/or be assessed more than once in the same year
  • not all households assessed as homeless enter temporary accommodation

The term 'homeless households' is used throughout the publication to denote households who have been assessed as (unintentionally or intentionally) homeless or threatened with homelessness.

Impact of coronavirus

Given the figures in this publication report data up until 31st March 2020 this only crosses over with around a week of coronavirus restrictions and changes in practices being in place. Therefore, changes in trends in homeless data as result of coronavirus will be minimal over this reporting period, particularly for annual figures.

Coronovirus may have had more of an impact on snapshot data recording households in temporary accommodation as at 31st March 2020 as actions taken in response to coronavirus were taken before this date, including the beginning of lockdown on March 23rd.

Some summary information for homeless applications and the use of temporary accommodation during the coronavirus period has been collected by both the Scottish Housing Regulator and by the Scottish Government. These collections are released as management information however, and are not Official or National statistics.


Email: homelessness_statistics_inbox@gov.scot

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