Homelessness in Scotland: update to 30 September 2021

This statistics bulletin provides information on homelessness in Scotland in the 6 month period from 1 April 2021 to 30 September 2021, alongside historical data.

This document is part of a collection

Temporary Accommodation

Key Points

  • There were 310 instances of households not being offered temporary accommodation between April and September – 28% less than 2020
  • There were 375 breaches of the unsuitable accommodation order – 70% more than 2020 (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 1 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 13,192 households in temporary accommodation as at 30 September 2021. The placement level returns show that there were 13,513 temporary accommodation placements open at 30 September 2021 – 321 (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).

Households entering and exiting temporary accommodation

Between April and September 2021, 10,620 households entered temporary accommodation while 8,926 exited – this is a net difference of +1,694 (+16%) households in temporary accommodation over this period.

Glasgow was the largest numerical difference with 684 more households entering than exiting. The next largest was West Lothian with a net difference of +276.

Types of temporary accommodation used

Chart 7: Types of temporary accommodation used
Pie chart showing a breakdown of the types of temporary accommodation used

Hostel accommodation accounted for 10% of all temporary accommodation placements as at 30 September 2021, the same as 2020 and less than the 14% in 2019. During the on-going pandemic, Bed & Breakfast usage peaked at 10% as at 30 September 2020 and has been between 8% and 9% since.

Local authority (furnished), housing association, other and women’s refuge accommodation remain more commonly used for households with children compared to those overall. Hostel and bed and breakfast accommodation are used much less for households with children.


A household can choose to refuse an offer of temporary accommodation made by the local authority. There were 3,600 refusals of temporary accommodation between April and September 2021. This is 105 (3%) less than the same period for 2020. Refusals were particularly high in July-September 2020 (2,045) and April to June 2021 (1,926).

Failure 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 2021, there were 310 instances of households not being offered temporary accommodation – 140 for April-June and 170 July-September. These figures are considerably smaller than those reported pre-pandemic, driven largely by the reduction in Glasgow as a result of steps taken to improve access to emergency accommodation, including re-purposing hotels during the pandemic.

A total of 6 local authorities reported at least one instance of not offering accommodation over the 6 month period in 2021, with Edinburgh reporting the majority (290). The others were Angus, Fife, Glasgow, Orkney and South Lanarkshire.

Breaches of the unsuitable accommodation order

Important! Reporting inconsistencies, due to uncertainty caused by the extension to Unsuitable Accommodation Order (UAO) legislation in May 2020, combined with the introduction of COVID-19 exception around the same time, persist. Therefore, these figures should continue to be treated with caution. See below for further detail.

COVID-19 exceptions were still in place up to 30 September 2021 (inclusive), and so will cover the whole reporting period in this publication.

There were 375 breaches of the unsuitable accommodation order (UAO) reported across 8 local authorities between April and September 2021. This is an increase of 155 compared to the same period in 2020 with the 250 reported in July to September being the highest in the series.

Fife accounted for 195 over the 6 month period; Glasgow 110; and East Lothian and West Lothian each around 30.

The increases may be explained by the extension of the UAO legislation to all households in May 2020, especially for local authorities such as East Lothian and Fife who, prior to this, reported very few breaches.

Edinburgh’s breaches have reduced considerably since the pandemic, likely related to the application of COVID-19 exceptions.

Changes in legislation

Prior to 5 May 2020, a breach was encountered when a household with a pregnant member and/or child was in unsuitable temporary accommodation for more than 7 days. From 5 May 2020, this was extended to all households.

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; 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 first two of these came in to effect in May 2020 and the third came in to effect in September 2020.)

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


Email: homelessness_statistics_inbox@gov.scot

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