Falkirk homelessness sharp rise due to people coming to district for places to live

The leader of Falkirk Council says a spike in homeless figures locally is partly due to people coming to the area to get better accommodation than their own local authority offers.

By Kirsty Paterson, Local Democracy Reporting Service
Friday, 5th February 2021, 8:00 am
Updated Thursday, 11th February 2021, 3:24 pm

A 40 per cent increase in the number of children living in temporary accommdation in Scotland last year has been highlighted by Labour leadership contender Anas Sarwar.

While Scotland's cities showed by far the biggest spike, there were increases in 18 local authorities, including Falkirk, where numbers nearly doubled from 82 in March 2019 to 150 last year.

Mr Sarwar is now calling for a major drive to build more homes; a switch from hardship loans to grants; and a guarantee that temporary accommodation is only used for a maximum of three months for families.

Ian Georgeson

The leader of Falkirk Council, SNP councillor Cecil Meiklejohn, acknowledged the increase in homelessness, partly due to the stresses of Covid impacting on families.

But she says it is also partly because Falkirk Council refuses to put people into bed and breakfast accommodation.

Instead, it offers high quality temporary accommodation - which attracts people from other areas.

She said: "We have had an increase in the number of people presenting as homeless and we know that a lot of that is related to the impact of Covid.

"People are finding stresses around finance and employment, which is impacting on family relationships and causing breakdowns in relationships.

"The sheer volume means they are spending a longer time in temporary accommodation in order to be rehoused.

"But we also have a high presentation in our local authority area because we don't use bed and breakfast accommodation and as a result we do have people gravitating towards Falkirk from outwith the area."

The council uses some hostel accommodation and private rentals but it also has a pool of its own properties, which it rotates every three years.

"We took a decision years ago as a council that we would not use bed and breakfast accommodation," Mrs Meiklejohn said.

Responding to Mr Sarwar's call, she said: "We already have an extensive housebuilding programme, which is part-funded from the Scottish Government, and every local authority is in a similar position.

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