South Scotland MSP Colin Smyth has written to East Ayrshire Council calling on them to explain why almost 90% of people who approached the council as ‘homeless’ were never recorded by the council as officially homeless.
According to a Freedom of Information (FOI) request by the BBC, in East Ayrshire last year 88% of those presenting with homelessness reasons were only recorded as asking for advice. This is higher than any other council in Scotland- twice the level of North Ayrshire and three times higher than South Ayrshire.
The law states that a person has a right to make a homeless application and government guidance says they must always be recorded as such if they have a homelessness reason- even if they are also applying for advice under what is known as "Housing Options". Being recorded as officially homeless ensures the applicant is not missing out on access to temporary accommodation and additional support.
But the FOI figures reveal that in most cases people in East Ayrshire with a homeless reason are only recorded under Housing Options.
South Scotland MSP Colin Smyth said, “I find it deeply worrying that of all the people who present to East Ayrshire Council as homeless, 88% aren’t being recorded by the council as officially homeless. This is the highest number in Scotland and significantly higher than most other councils”.
“The new system for recording housing problems means that the council can record people as merely asking for advice and thus remove any requirement for them to find shelter for and at the same time miss them off the official homelessness figures”.
“In some councils everyone who came to the council saying they were homeless were listed as homeless and consequently were helped to find suitable accommodation- both short and long term.
“Given how very different the figures are for East Ayrshire, I am concerned that people who are genuinely homeless may not be getting access to the support and accommodation they need if they aren’t being registered as homeless”.
“Ultimately this is about some of the most vulnerable people in the area asking for help to stop them from sleeping on the streets. From children to the elderly, hundreds of people in the area affected by homelessness through no fault of their own and they need the maximum support.”