Homelessness in Scotland: update to 30 September 2019

This bulletin provides information on local authority homelessness applications, assessments and outcomes in the period from 1 April to 30 September 2019.

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)

  2017 2018 2019
Publication Date Jan - March April-June July - Sept Oct - Dec Jan - March April-June July - Sept Oct - Dec Jan - March April-June July - Sept
28-Jan-20      9,618       9,024       9,173       7,956       9,413       9,568       9,447  8280 9450 9236 9409
26-Jun-19      9,619       9,023       9,179       7,958       9,413       9,570       9,422  8251 9222    
29-Jan-19      9,618       9,024       9,178       7,953       9,399       9,502       8,984         
19-Jun-18      9,570       8,975       9,108       7,852       9,037             
23-Jan-18      9,549       8,936       8,861                 
27-Jun-17      9,189                     

*Note the (Annual) June publications do not report quarterly changes, but annual statistics.

Difference in applications between publication shown and most recent publication

26-Jun-19 -           1              1  -           6  -           2             -    -           2            25            29          228 
29-Jan-19            -               -    -           5              3            14            66          463     
19-Jun-18           48            49            65          104          376         
23-Jan-18           69            88          312             
27-Jun-17         429                 


Percentage difference in applications between publication shown and most recent publication

26-Jun-19 0% 0% 0% 0% 0% 0% 0% 0% 2%
29-Jan-19 0% 0% 0% 0% 0% 1% 5%    
19-Jun-18 0% 1% 1% 1% 4%        
23-Jan-18 1% 1% 3%            
27-Jun-17 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 https://www.gov.scot/collections/homelessness-statistics

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 https://www.gov.scot/publications/data-protection-impact-assessment-and-quality-assurance-statment-for-hl1-hl3-and-prevent1-data-collections/ 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, 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 2019. Reasons for these differences are given below the table.

Additionally, The Scottish Government have recently become aware that the City of Edinburgh council have been previously unable to report ‘not offered’ places via their HL3 return due to technical issues. This means that there has been a mis-reporting previously that the City of Edinburgh have no cases of ‘not offered’ temporary accommodation. The City of Edinburgh Council have now provided backdated aggregate figures, and will continue to do so until their technical issues are resolved (there is a planned implementation of a new IT system for April 2020). These figures have been incorporated into Table 17 in this publication.

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 twice 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.

In addition the Scottish Government hosted a Homelessness Statistics User Event on 15th October 2019, which featured a range of speakers covering topics related to homelessness statistics. Details of the event, including presentation slides, can be found here: https://www.gov.scot/publications/homelessness-statistics-user-event-october-2019/


Email: homelessness_statistics_inbox@gov.scot

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