Homelessness in Scotland: update to 30 September 2020

This statistics bulletin provides information on homelessness in Scotland in the 6 month period from 1 April 2020 to 30 September 2020, alongside historical data.

This document is part of a collection

Temporary Accommodation

Key Points

  • The number of households in bed and breakfast accommodation at 30th September 2020 increased by 99% compared to the previous year.
  • There were 460 instances of households not being offered temporary accommodation between April and September – 76% less than 2019
  • There were 135 breaches of the unsuitable accommodation order – 39% less than 2019 (to be treated with caution - see notes below)

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 1st 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 14,151 households in temporary accommodation as at 30th September 2020. The placement level returns show that there were 14,483 temporary accommodation placements open at 30th September 2020 – 332 (2%) 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).

How many households entered temporary accommodation? How many exited?

Between April and September 2020, 10,957 households entered temporary accommodation while 7,372 exited – this is a net difference of +3,585 households in temporary accommodation over this period (Table 20).

This ties in with the overall numbers in temporary accommodation and open cases increasing over the same period.

What types of temporary accommodation are used?

There was a notable increase in the use of bed and breakfast accommodation following the outbreak of covid-19. While 789 (7%) of the 11,665 household in temporary accommodation at March 31st were in this accommodation type, the figure at September 30th was 1,414 (10%). This was an increase of 704, 99% compared to September 30th 2019.

Over the same period there was a reduction in the use of hostel accommodation. 1,477 households were in this accommodation type at September 30th 2020 compared to 1,578 at 30th September 2019 (Table 17).

Chart 6: There was an increase in the use of bed and breakfast accommodation
Bar chart showing type of temporary accommodation used at 30th September 2020 compared to 2019

The increased use of bed and breakfast accommodation was due to increased availability of this accommodation type, alongside additional funding provided to local authorities to provide temporary accommodation in Edinburgh and Glasgow. Bed and breakfast accommodation was increasingly offered to households in this period as it was easier for households to socially distance in this accommodation type in comparison to other more communal accommodation such as hostels.

It remains the case that hostel and bed and breakfast accommodation is far less likely to be used for households with children than those without. Of those households containing children or a pregnant woman in temporary accommodation at 30th September, 1% were in bed and breakfast accommodation compared to 10% of all households. (Table 17 & 18)

How often do applicants refuse temporary accommodation?

A household can choose to refuse an offer of temporary accommodation made by the local authority. The number of cases of households refusing temporary accommodation increased by 28% in 6 month period from April to September 2020 (3,565 compared to 2,775 in 2019), with particularly large increases from July to September. 1,585 of these refusals (44%) were in Glasgow, while there was a notable increase in Aberdeen City (310 in April to September 2020 compared to 130 in 2019). (Table 21)

Information provided by local authorities suggest that the increase may be the result of households rejecting offers of bed and breakfast accommodation, which were more common as the availability of other accommodation types decreased during the pandemic while the availability of bed and breakfast accommodation increased.

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 2020 there were 460[6] instances of households not being offered temporary accommodation – 170 for April-June and 290 July-September. These figures are considerably smaller than any reported previously, which has mainly been driven by the reduction in Glasgow – 55 reported for the 6 month period in 2020 compared to 1,520 for the same period in 2019. This was the result of increased availability of bed and breakfast accommodation for use as temporary accommodation in this period. 

A total of 24 local authorities reported at least one instance of not offering accommodation over the 6 month period in 2020, with Edinburgh reporting the majority (370). (Table 22)

How often do local authorities breach unsuitable accommodation legislation?

There were 135 breaches reported across 10 different local authorities between April and September 2020. Fife accounted for 75 of these (all between July and September), having not previously reported high numbers of breaches. Conversely, Edinburgh who do usually report a relatively high number of breaches reported less than 4 over the 6 month period. (Table 23)

Important! Over the reporting period i) there was a significant change to legislation and ii) temporary exceptions were put in place at very short notice in response to covid-19, both of which have had considerable impacts on the data. The urgency of having to adapt to the revised legislation without any specific guidance means that local authorities have reported inconsistencies in the information captured regarding breaches which is likely to affect comparability. For these reasons, these figures should be treated with caution. 

Changes in legislation

Prior to 5 May 2020, a breach was encountered when a household with a pregnant woman and/or child is in unsuitable temporary accommodation for more than 7 days. From 5 May 2020, this was extended to all households. Therefore, the breaches reported between April and September 2020 will include those based on both old and new legislation.

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. 

(To note: the third of these only came into effect on 30th September, which is right at the very end of the reporting period within this publication)

A household placed in unsuitable accommodation for longer than 7 days where an exception did not apply must still be recorded as a breach.

Comparisons with administrative data sources

Acceptances [7]
Line chart of the number of offers of temporary accommodation accepted

The number of acceptances recorded in the official statistics (HL3) was 5-7% higher than SOLACE and 10-13% higher than SHR for Apr-Sep 2020. This may be the result of delays to data entry at the time SOLACE and SHR data was compiled meaning a complete set of records for the month was not available.


While HL3 and SOLACE refusals figures were very similar. The SHR figures were 8-20% lower for May-Sep 2020, which is explained by Glasgow reporting households, rather than instances, in the SHR return.

Figure Title - figcation
Line chart of the number of offers of temporary accommodation refused

Not offered

The number of not offered reported via HL3 was consistently higher than both SOLACE and SHR for May-Sep 2020.

Figure Title - figcation
Line chart of the number of households not offered temporary accommodation


Email: homelessness_statistics_inbox@gov.scot

Back to top