Homeless figures rise

Homeless figures have shown an increase in people seeking help in the Borders. Photograph: Ian Georgeson/TSPL
Homeless figures have shown an increase in people seeking help in the Borders. Photograph: Ian Georgeson/TSPL

Applications for homelessness help in the Borders increased last year, one of just three areas of Scotland where this was the case.

However the council has said that the 17 per cent increase, compared to a 13 per cent decrease across the whole of Scotland, cannot be compared like-for-like with other authorities, as the figures are calculated differently.

Cathie Fancy, the council’s group manager for housing strategy and services,said the issue had been raised with the Scottish Government, who produced the report containing the figures, and that the council was aware that the result would differ greatly from other local authorities.

According to the statistics, the number of homelessness assessments in the Borders rose to 636 in 2012/13, compared to 542 the previous year.

But Ms Fancy said the increase was largely down to the new prevention approach, which had led to a ‘greater emphasis’ on people receiving full assessments.

She added that due to the implementation of the new service in 2011/12, almost all assessments were put on hold for the first month, meaning that the figure effectively only covered 11 months, and so was less than it would normally be.

In fact, Ms Fancy said that the total number of people approaching the service had increased by just 0.05 per cent in 2012/13 compared to the previous year.

Ms Fancy said: “Overall, the numbers presenting to the service for advice and assistance have remained fairly constant over the last few years and upon further analysis the reasons for presenting has not changed in any manner.

She added: “The council works with all of its registered social landlord partners and with the private sector to ensure that people have fair access to social rented and/or affordable housing solutions.

“The council is also working with its partners to ensure that we build as many new affordable homes as possible and also to ensure that areas are regenerated to bring empty – social and private sector – properties back into use.”

Ms Fancy said that the impact of welfare reforms on homelessness in the Borders would likely not be known until later in the year, and that next year’s figures would give a better comparison for the local authority.

She added that a rise was ‘anticipated’ due to the welfare reforms which came into force earlier this year.

A total of 89 households in the Borders were staying in temporary accommodation due to homelessness last year, including 39 children.