THE SCOTTISH Government has been urged to build more social homes and ramp up support services after new figures revealed thousands of children spent last Christmas without a permanent place of shelter.

The Scottish Liberal Democrats have demanded the Scottish Government takes "urgent and drastic" action to put things right after figures uncovered by the party showed no improvement has been made over a four-year period.

Statistics revealed that more than 12,000 children and 25,000 adults were homeless last Christmas.

In 2015 there were 10,508 children within live homelessness applications on Christmas Day. In 2019, that number was 12,467, alongside a further 25,832 adults.

Liberal Democrat housing spokesperson, Paul McGarry, was made homeless himself when he was 16 years old.

He said: “At this time of year most of us can rely upon a comfortable and secure roof above our heads. These statistics show thousands upon thousands are not so lucky.

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“In the past four years, the number of children part of a live homeless application on Christmas day has risen almost 20 per cent – that’s a heart-breaking statistic.

“Whether it’s living on the streets, sofa-surfing or shuttling between temporary accommodation, these situations take a huge toll on people’s mental and physical health. It also exerts a huge toll on children’s education and development."

Mr McGarry added: “Scotland is a wealthy and prosperous country.

"We can do so much better than this.

“The work that was done at the outset of the pandemic to house people was remarkable. But it also left many people wondering why it needed this crisis for government to mount a concerted effort to stop people being left outside.

“The SNP must urgently grasp the opportunity to build more social housing and ensure councils have resources to fix poor housing. There are thousands of neglected and vacant properties across the country which, with the right incentives, could be renovated to boost the housing stock.

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“We also need to see advice services given the support and resources they need to help people in need, not being permanently left hanging by a thread. With common sense policies and a needle-sharp focus, we can tackle homelessness in 2021.”

Stark figures released by the Scottish Government in August showed that more than 7,000 Scots children were living in temporary accommodation as the Covid-19 pandemic started.

The official statistics also highlighted a total of 31,333 households were assessed as being homeless in 2019/20 Housing Minister Kevin Stewart said: “We don’t want children to be experiencing homelessness at any time of the year. Scotland has some of the strongest homelessness rights in the world.

"Anyone experiencing or at risk of homelessness is entitled to help from their local authority, which includes accommodation. These rights pre-date the pandemic by years and have been a strong safety net for people experiencing homelessness."

He added:“Our updated Ending Homelessness Together Action Plan, supported by £50 million, emphasises that we are committed to ending homelessness altogether which remains a national priority.

“The updated action plan, published jointly with Cosla in October, places greater emphasis on prevention of homelessness and accelerating rapid rehousing to prioritise settled accommodation over temporary accommodation.

“It underlines the importance of prevention, highlights measures to reduce the risk of evictions and proposes phasing out night shelters, replacing them with rapid rehousing welcome centres in Edinburgh and Glasgow.”