Homelessness in Scotland: update to 30 September 2018

Information on homelessness applications, assessments and outcomes in the period to 30 September 2018.

This document is part of a collection

Notes on the statistics

HL1, HL2 and HL3 recording

We are grateful to all 32 Scottish Local Authorities who submitted their HL1, HL2 and HL3 returns on time.

Given the continuous nature of the recording system, figures are updated on an on-going basis and may differ from those previously published. There may be 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. As a result, we estimate that the headline number of applications may change by as much as 4% between first and subsequent publications.

Reporting of the Number of Applications (per quarter)

Publication Date 2016 2017 2018
Jan – March April- June July – Sept Oct – Dec Jan – March April- June July – Sept Oct – Dec Jan – Marc April - June July - Sept
29-Jan-19 9,389 8,861 8,690 7,558 9,618 9,024 9,178 7,953 9,399 9,502 8,984
19-Jun-18 9,361 8,829 8,647 7,524 9,570 8,975 9,108 7,852 9,037
23-Jan-18 9,360 8,827 8,640 7,518 9,549 8,936 8,861
27-Jun-17 9,353 8,810 8,620 7,481 9,189
17-Jan-17 9,347 8,778 8,329

Difference in applications between publication shown and most recent publication

19-Jun-18 28 32 43 34 48 49 70 101 362
23-Jan-18 29 34 50 40 69 88 317
27-Jun-17 36 51 70 77 429
17-Jan-17 42 83 361

Percentage difference in applications between publication shown and most recent publication

19-Jun-18 0% 0% 0% 0% 0% 1% 1% 1% 4%
23-Jan-18 0% 0% 1% 1% 1% 1% 3%
27-Jun-17 0% 1% 1% 1% 4%
17-Jan-17 0% 1% 4%

The data over time

In 2001, the Scottish Parliament passed legislation which placed additional duties on Local Authorities to provide a minimum of temporary accommodation, advice and assistance to all applicants assessed as homeless. From September 2002, this took effect and councils have been required to provide temporary accommodation, advice and assistance to non-priority applicants who in the past would have received advice and assistance only. This has had a noticeable impact on applications, which has been reflected in changing assessments and outcomes for homeless people. Some tables in this release therefore present time series data so that this impact can be tracked.

In December 2001, the Scottish Government changed the data collection system for the case-based HL1 return to provide more detailed information on applications by individual households and to allow more timely reporting. This entailed changing to an electronic data capture system which allows cases to be registered and updated on a continuous basis, as well as enabling applications made by the same household to be linked.

The data collection system introduced in December 2001 allows analysis by individual households and the identification of repeat applications. However, this is not the case for earlier data and so analyses comparing data over longer time periods will tend to refer to applications rather than individual households. This is also the case for analyses of flow through the assessment process where repeat applications by the same individual household might be assessed differently and have different outcomes. For other analyses, it is useful to distinguish individual households and so the unit of analysis (applications or individual households) is specified in the footnotes for each table.

The data collection was further revised in April 2007 in the light of the Homelessness etc. (Scotland) Act 2003, with some additional information included to reflect current best practice. Further information on the HL1 can be found at http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Topics/Statistics/15257/HL1revisions.

Interpretation of statistics on temporary accommodation

The figures on households in temporary accommodation relate to households which have been placed in temporary accommodation by a Local Authority under the Homeless Persons legislation. This will include households for whom the Local Authority’s decision and final action is still pending, as well as households which were secured such accommodation as a final action by the authority under the legislation.

The summary HL2 return (since 2002) has provided a snapshot picture of the numbers of households in temporary accommodation as at the last day of each quarter.

In June 2005, the HL2 return was revised in order to monitor the implementation of the Homeless Persons (Unsuitable Accommodation) (Scotland) Order 2004. The revised return records the number of households with children or pregnant women in temporary accommodation as at the end of the quarter, the number of those in unsuitable accommodation as defined by the Order, and the number of those in accommodation which breaches the Order. Not all use of unsuitable accommodation is in breach of the Order as such use may be allowed under exceptional circumstances as defined in the Order (see summary of legislation below).

Since April 2016, it has been mandatory for local authorities to also complete an HL3 return, which provides placement level information on households in temporary accommodation. By providing placement level information, it is possible to provide in-depth analysis of the temporary accommodation use, for example, length of stay in temporary accommodation.

How we maintain quality

HL1 and HL2

The quality of this publication depends critically on the quality and consistency of the information supplied to us by Local Authorities on the HL1 and HL2 returns. The quality statement on the Scottish homelessness statistics website at http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Topics/Statistics/15257/quality sets out the ways in which we do this. The main focus of our systems is to ensure consistency between the HL1 and HL2 and consistency of the case level information within each HL1 return.


The quality of the additional temporary accommodation analysis provided in this publication also relies on the information supplied by local authorities. From April 2016, it became mandatory for local authorities to submit placement level information on temporary accommodation through the HL3 return. The Scottish Government have been working with local authorities to quality assure this data. This has involved comparison with snapshot HL2 figures at the end of each quarter and further, consistency checks with associated HL1 records.

The ‘Tables’ document, which is published alongside this document (and is available here: http://www.gov.scot/Topics/Statistics/Browse/Housing-Regeneration/RefTables) provides an additional ‘HL3 Data Quality’ tab with a local authority breakdown. Some local authorities have a large difference between the number of households in temporary accommodation recorded through their HL2 versus their HL3 data as at 30th September 2018. Reasons for these differences are given below the table.

How we deal with revisions and corrections

Our approach to revisions and corrections is set out in detail on the Scottish homelessness statistics website at http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Topics/Statistics/15257/revisionpolicy. In summary, published statistics and supporting reference tables are generally revised when the figures next appear in any publication. However, if a revision is significant resulting in a major change to the published figures a note showing the revisions will be published as soon as possible on the homelessness statistics website. It will also be distributed to all known recipients of the originally published data via email and the ScotStat mailing list.

How we consult with users and providers of statistics

Local Authorities in Scotland provide homelessness statistics as a by-product of their administration of Scottish homelessness legislation. The main users of homelessness statistics are Local Authorities, housing associations, The Scottish Government and voluntary bodies such as Shelter, Homeless Action Scotland and Crisis. In November 2011, we re-established the Scottish homelessness statistics user provider group with representatives of providers and users of the statistics. We aim for the group to meet once a year. The minutes and papers from meetings of the group can be found on the Scottish homelessness statistics website at: http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Topics/Statistics/15257/22540.

Summary of current legislation

The Housing (Homeless Persons) Act 1977, now consolidated into Part II of the Housing (Scotland) Act 1987, introduced statutory duties on Local Authorities to assist those who are homeless or threatened with homelessness (potentially homeless), including providing accommodation in certain circumstances.

The legislation currently requires Local Authorities to make inquiries into the circumstances of applicants to satisfy themselves whether the applicant is homeless or potentially homeless. Once the authority is satisfied this is the case, prior to 31st December 2012, it also determined whether the applicant had a priority need. However, from 31st December 2012, the priority need test has now been abolished (see Paragraph 24). The Local Authority then tests whether the applicant became homeless intentionally and, in some cases, whether the applicant has a local connection with another authority in Scotland, England or Wales. A local connection with an authority means that the applicant normally resided in that area from choice, either because he/she was employed in or had family associations with it, or for other special reasons.

Section 24 of the Housing (Scotland) Act 1987, as amended, defines homelessness for the purposes of the Act as follows. A person is homeless if he/ she has no accommodation in the UK or elsewhere. A person is also homeless if he/ she has accommodation but cannot reasonably occupy it, for example because of a threat of violence. A person is potentially homeless (threatened with homelessness) if it is likely that he/ she will become homeless within two months. A person is intentionally homeless if he/ she deliberately did or failed to do anything which led to the loss of accommodation which it was reasonable for him/ her to continue to occupy.

Section 25 of the Housing (Scotland) Act 1987, as amended, defined the categories of household regarded as having a priority need for accommodation. Further details can be found in the Code of Guidance on Homelessness. This is available on-line at: http://www.scotland.gov.uka76747a0-efcd-4a2e-9551-9e3e66d60bc7.

The Housing (Scotland) Act 2001 amends the 1987 Act and requires councils to provide a minimum of temporary accommodation, advice and assistance to all applicants assessed as homeless, regardless of whether they have been assessed as being in priority need. The Homelessness etc. (Scotland) Act 2003 is more long-term in scope, notably introducing a phasing out of the distinction between priority and non-priority applications. The ultimate aim of the Act was to ensure that everyone assessed as being unintentionally homeless was entitled to settled accommodation from 31st December 2012.

In November 2012, the Scottish Parliament approved the Homelessness (Abolition of Priority Need Test) (Scotland) Order 2012 which gave effect to this commitment. From 31st December 2012 the priority need test for homeless households was abolished. As a result, from this date, all unintentionally homeless households are entitled to settled accommodation.

Summary of Local Authority duty to homeless households:

1. Unintentionally homeless [and in priority need][11]

  • Provide temporary accommodation until permanent accommodation has been secured.
  • Permanent accommodation is defined as:
    • A Scottish Secure Tenancy (SST)
    • An Assured Tenancy (not a Short Assured Tenancy)
    • If the applicants have previously been evicted for anti-social behaviour in the last 3 years, or if they are subject to an anti-social behaviour order - a short Scottish Secure Tenancy can be offered.

In some circumstances, the Local Authority can provide non-permanent accommodation. These circumstances are laid out in the Homeless Persons (Provision of Non-permanent Accommodation) (Scotland) Regulations 2010.

Under certain circumstances, a Local Authority may apply a local connection test and refer the applicant to another Local Authority. However, the receiving Local Authority must then secure settled accommodation for the applicant.

2. Intentionally Homeless [and in Priority Need / Homeless and not in Priority Need]:

  • Provide temporary accommodation for a reasonable period of time, advice and assistance.

3. Potentially homeless, unintentionally so [and in Priority Need[11]]:

  • Take reasonable steps to ensure that accommodation does not cease to be available.

4. Potentially homeless, intentionally so [and in Priority Need / Potentially Homeless and not in Priority Need]:

  • Provide advice and assistance to help retain accommodation.

The Homeless Persons (Unsuitable Accommodation) (Scotland) Order 2004 came into force on 6 December 2004, and is intended to prevent the routine use of unsuitable temporary accommodation for households with family commitments. Under this Order, Local Authorities cannot put households with children and pregnant women into temporary accommodation which is not suitable, unless exceptional circumstances apply. Unsuitable accommodation is defined in the Order as accommodation which does not meet standards relating to the physical properties of the accommodation (the physical standard), its proximity to health and education services (the proximity standard) and its suitability for use by children (the safety standard).

The 2004 order was revoked by The Homeless Persons (Unsuitable Accommodation) (Scotland) Order 2014, which came into force on the 21st November 2014. The 2014 order adds the additional requirement that the accommodation must be wind and watertight.

While the Order provides for exceptional circumstances, in which accommodation which does not meet the physical and/or proximity standards may be used, the safety standard must always be met. Further details can be found in the Code of Guidance available on-line at: http://www.scotland.gov.uka76747a0-efcd-4a2e-9551-9e3e66d60bc7

The 2014 Order specifies that the local authority may provide an applicant with temporary accommodation which does not meet the requirements set out by Article 5 of the Order, but for no longer than 14 days in total in respect of that person’s application. The Homeless Persons (Unsuitable Accommodation) (Scotland) Amendment Order 2017, which came into force in October 2017, reduces the number of days from 14 to 7 days before a ‘breach’ is recorded for the applicant remaining in such unsuitable accommodation.

The Housing Support Services (Homelessness) (Scotland) Regulations 2012 came into force on 1st June 2013. These Regulations make provision in relation to the duty of Local Authorities to assess whether some persons found to be homeless or threatened with homelessness (“an applicant”) need housing support services. Regulation 2 prescribes four types of housing support services which apply for the purposes of that duty. If a Local Authority has reason to believe that an applicant may be in need of one or more of these services, it must assess whether the applicant, or any person residing with the applicant, is in need of such support. If so, the Local Authority must ensure that the service is provided to the person who needs it. Further information on these regulations can be found at: http://www.scotland.gov.uk88558e9e-fb92-4171-9885-5aca9535d093.

Comparability with other UK homelessness statistics


In England, Part 7 of the Housing Act 1996 and the Homelessness Act 2002 place statutory duties on local housing authorities to provide assistance to people who are homeless or threatened with homelessness. Authorities must consider all applications from people seeking accommodation or assistance in obtaining accommodation. A main homelessness duty is owed where the authority is satisfied that the applicant is eligible for assistance, unintentionally homeless and falls within a priority need group, which are specified in the legislation (e.g. households with dependent children or a pregnant woman).

Where a main duty is owed, the authority must ensure that suitable accommodation is available for the applicant and his or her household until a settled home becomes available for them. Where households are found to be intentionally homeless or not in priority need, the authority must make an assessment of their housing needs and provide advice and assistance to help them find accommodation for themselves. Where the applicant is found to be intentionally homeless but falls in a priority need category the authority must also ensure that accommodation is available for long enough to give the applicant a reasonable opportunity to find a home.

The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government introduced a Homelessness Case Level Information Classification (H-CLIC) in April 2018 to coincide with the commencement of the Homelessness Reduction Act 2017.

H-CLIC collects case level data and provides more detailed information on the causes and effects of homelessness than has been collected in the past. The first set of statistics since commencement of the Homelessness Reduction Act on 3 April 2018 and the first statistical release using Homelessness Case Level Information Collection (H-CLIC) data was on the 13 December 2018 and is available here: https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/statutory-homelessness-in-england-april-to-june-2018

The Homelessness Reduction Act 2017 places new legal duties on English councils so that everyone who is homeless or at risk of homelessness will have access to meaningful help, irrespective of their priority need status, as long as they are eligible for assistance. The Act amends part VII of the Housing Act 1996.

The most recent statutory homelessness statistics for England are available at: https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/homelessness-statistics


In Wales, Local Authorities are bound by similar statutory duties as those in England. The data is collected on a quarterly Local Authority level WHO12 return, similar to the P1E form in England.

The most recent statutory homelessness statistics for Wales are available at: http://wales.gov.uk/statistics-and-research/homelessness/?lang=en

The National Assembly for Wales has enacted new homelessness provisions which can be found at: http://www.legislation.gov.uk/anaw/2014/7/contents/enacted. In particular, section 66 details a new prevention duty.

Northern Ireland

In Northern Ireland statistics on homelessness are sourced from the Northern Ireland Housing Executive (NIHE). Under the Housing (NI) Order 1988, NIHE has a similar statutory responsibility to secure permanent accommodation for households who are unintentionally homeless and in priority need; to secure temporary accommodation in a variety of circumstances and to provide advice and assistance to those who are homeless or threatened with homelessness.

The most recent statutory homelessness statistics for Northern Ireland are available at: https://www.communities-ni.gov.uk/publications/northern-ireland-housing-statistics-2017-18


Scottish homelessness statistics are available at: http://www.gov.scot/homelessstats

Key similarities and differences

Because of the differences in collection methods, and in the legislative duties to homeless households in Scotland following the 2001 homelessness legislation, care needs to be taken in comparing homelessness statistics across the 4 countries.

Under the Scottish legislation, Local Authorities have wider duties to assist non-priority homeless households. In addition, a key part of the Scottish legislation, often referred to as the 2012 homelessness commitment, led to increasing proportions of homeless households being assessed as in priority need and from 31 December 2012 this test has been abolished. As a result, the definition of priority need was therefore broader in Scotland than in other parts of the UK. As a direct consequence of these changes, significantly higher proportions of all homeless and priority homeless households in Scotland are single person households. In addition, the time scale for threatened with homelessness is two months in Scotland compared to 28 days in England.

In England and Wales, analyses for ‘households accepted by Local Authorities as owed a main homelessness duty’ are roughly equivalent to Scottish analyses for unintentionally homeless households [and in priority need for those assessed prior to 31st December 2012].


Email: Lee Bunce

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