Homelessness in Scotland: 2020 to 2021

This statistics bulletin provides information on homelessness in Scotland in the period from 1 April 2020 to 31 March 2021, alongside historical data.

This document is part of a collection


This statistics bulletin provides information on homelessness in Scotland in the period from 1 April 2020 to 31 March 2021, alongside historical data.

It provides statistical information on all stages of the homelessness process, the circumstances from which they became homeless, use of temporary accommodation and the final outcomes of their application.

Characteristics of the homelessness population, including breakdowns by age, gender and ethnicity, which have previously been released separately in a later equalities publication, have also been released as part of this publication.

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 likely 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. If the household is eligible for assistance. Households with no recourse to public funds are not eligible for homelessness assistance, though they may be provided temporary accommodation while their status is assessed.

b. whether the household is homeless or threatened with homelessness;

c. if the household is homeless, whether this is ‘unintentional’ or ‘intentional’; and

d. 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.

The statistics in this publication are based on administrative data collected by local authorities in the course of processing homelessness applications. A limitation of this approach is that data is not collected for any households that are homeless but do not engage with their local authority. For this reason the statistics in this publication do not necessarily cover the entire homeless population in Scotland. More detail on the data sources we use are included at the end of this publication.

Excel workbooks containing the tables and charts referenced in this publication are available to download at: https://www.gov.scot/collections/homelessness-statistics/

What is the statutory duty of the local authority?

If a household is unintentionally homeless (or threatened with homelessness), the local authority must offer settled accommodation. Until this is available, the local authority must offer temporary accommodation.

If a household is intentionally homeless (or threatened with homelessness), 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.

While previously local authorities had a legal duty to investigate whether a household became intentionally homeless, from November 2019 this became a discretionary power.

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 homelessness process as different households will be at a different stage at different times.

That is, not all applications made in 2020/21 will have an assessment or temporary accommodation placement that year. Similarly, some assessments made in 2020/21 will relate to applications received prior to this; and some temporary placements in 2020/21 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.

For the gender, age and ethnicity breakdowns, although data is captured for the main applicant and a second applicant where applicable, findings are based on the characteristics of the main applicant only for ease of reporting. Given the majority of homeless households only contain one adult, this only affects 10% of all households where there are two or more adults.

The characteristics of a household are initially collected by the local authority at the application stage. While it is possible for these characteristics to change between application and case closure, it may not be practical for the data collection to be updated to reflect these changes. Therefore, for a small number of households, the characteristics information reported may be out of date. This is most likely to affect household composition.

Care should be taken when interpreting findings based on small numbers. This is particularly the case for the ethnicity breakdowns where there are a small total number within particular categories e.g less than 100 of mixed/multiple ethnicity.

Impact of coronavirus

This is the first annual homelessness statistics release for which covid-19 restrictions and changes in practices were in place for the full reporting period. Where it is believed that covid-19 has had an impact on the data and trends shown in the publication, these have been highlighted with explanations where possible.

In response to the pandemic, local authorities made efforts to house all of those in need (including those who would not otherwise be eligible for homelessness support). This included, but was not restricted to, the accommodating of rough sleepers. Where households housed in response to the pandemic have a formal homelessness application to a local authority and/or have a temporary accommodation placement recorded on management information systems, they will be included in the statistics presented in this publication. If there is no corresponding homelessness application and/or temporary accommodation placement recorded, they will not be included.

Some monthly summary information for homelessness applications and the use of temporary accommodation during the coronavirus period has been collected (from local authorities) by both the Scottish Housing Regulator and by the Scottish Government (on behalf of SOLACE[1]). They are not subject to the same level of quality assurance processes as the Official Statistics presented in this publication, and are released as management information.

The biannual Homelessness in Scotland publication[2] provides a comparison between the management information and Official Statistics sources. Given the key messages from this have not changed since the biannual publication and the timing of the Official Statistics in this publication are much closer in dates to the monthly management information currently available, comparisons have not been included in this publication.


Email: homelessness_statistics_inbox@gov.scot

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