Councils across Scotland breached the law that prevents the homeless being placed in 'unsuitable' temporary accommodation more than 11,000 times over a year-and-a-half, the Herald on Sunday can reveal.

Some 23 out of Scotland's 32 local authorities have admitted breaches of the Unsuitable Accommodation Order, which is legally binding and ensures that people have access to decent living accommodation.

The details gathered by the Herald on Sunday from local authorities show that the rate of breaches shot up from an average of nearly 540 per month last year to around 800-a-month so far this year.

There were nearly 6500 breaches in 2022 and in the first half of this year there were over 4800 infringements.

Ten of the local authorities have registered higher numbers of breaches in the first six to seven months of this year than for the whole of 2022.

Housing campaigners have described the position as a "scandal" and are demanding ministers act to improve living conditions for the nation's most vulnerable. They are also concerned that no action has been taken to enforce the law on the rights of the homeless which appeared to be broken "as a matter of course".

In 2019, the then First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said that breaches "should not be tolerated" and said it would consider introducing sanctions on those councils that fail to comply as part of plans to "transform temporary accommodation".

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At that point there were just 750 breaches in a year-and-a-half, a fraction of the numbers currently being reported.

A property is deemed unsuitable if it does not meet certain criteria, for example it is not wind and watertight, does not meet minimum safety standards or lacks adequate bedrooms, toilet and personal washing facilities.

Experts say that the order seeks to prevent the long-term use of bed and breakfast accommodation, hotels, hostels and shelters.

The Herald: A social housing tenant has been relocated by Haringey Council into an "unsuitable" flat for her and her family.

Local authorities are in breach when placing a homeless household in accommodation not meeting the requirements of the order for more than seven days.

Scotland's biggest city has the highest number of breaches at over 6000 over the year-and-a-half to July this year. There were 3375 in the Glasgow city council area last year and over 2700 in the first six months of this year.

The council has said that all breaches this year involved hotel and bed & breakfast accommodation.

The Dundee City Council area has seen the biggest breach rate surge soaring from just five in the whole of 2022 to 108 in the first six months of this year.

Aberdeen City Council has seen infringements rise from 66 in 2022 to 289 in just half of this year. The council said it reflected an "increase in homeless presentations".

South Lanarkshire which had no breaches in 2022 had seven in the the first six months of this year.

In West Dunbartonshire the rise was from 11 in 2022 to 48 so far this year while in Moray there were seven breaches last year and 26 in the first half of this year.

Councils are known to have warned the government that there would be breaches due to a lack of supply of affordable social housing.

The Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (COSLA), the national association of Scottish councils which acts as an employers' association for its 32 member authorities said: "Cosla and officials acknowledge that there is a real issue here that is not easily resolved but we are committed to working with partners to find better options in future.”

The Herald: North Star is backing calls for Government action on homelessnessThe Scottish Tenants Organisation (STO) said that there should be sanctions for breaking the law "otherwise there is no point of having it".

They described the mountain of breaches as a "scandal" and "an appalling indictment of how we treat vulnerable homeless people in temporary accommodation in Scotland that women and children are increasingly being forced into unsuitable hotels and bed and breakfast accommodation with Dickensian conditions that no family should experience".

Leading housing and homelessness charity Shelter Scotland said: “Scotland has some world leading housing rights on paper, but if they’re being breached as a matter of course then they are effectively meaningless."

The analysis is the first overview of the depth of the breaches since the Scottish Government order was extended to all households from May, 2020. The law previously applied only when housing pregnant women or families with children.

Local authorities were given an exemption from having to comply with the extended law until September 2021 if the temporary accommodation was being used for self-isolation or social distancing purposes, or if the council could not find suitable accommodation due to the impact of Covid on supply.

According to official Scottish Government data, there were just 1380 breaches across Scotland in 2021. Before the pandemic in 2019 there were 490 infringements.

The Scottish Government has admitted that its data collection on the breaches should be treated with caution due to what it called "reporting anomalies and inconsistencies associated with differing interpretations of the legislation..."

They say there has also been uncertainty caused by the extension of legislation –  which was put in place quickly and "without specific guidance".

The development comes a matter of weeks after Scotland's First Minister Humza Yousaf met two bereaved mothers to demand he put an end to the "dumping" of homeless people in unsuitable accommodation.

Linda McVean and Maureen Thomson from Penilee have raised concerns that their sons died of suspected overdoses in hotels that have become notorious for drug dealing.

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Ms McVean whose son Frankie, 30, died at the Queens Park Hotel in Glasgow on May 14, showed the First Minister a photo of her son, who was not a drug addict but is believed to have dabbled in street valium.

The 54-year-old said Mr Yousaf had promised to write to her within a month after considering her pleas.

She had been asking for on-site case workers for those with drugs, alcohol or mental health issues, as well as more police focus on drug dealing around hotels.

But Sean Clerkin, campaign co-ordinator for the STO said they were met with "stony silence with no reply to our demands to improve conditions in hotels and temporary accommodation".

He said: "The Scottish Government is failing our most vulnerable homeless, is lacking the political will to improve conditions in unsuitable temporary accommodation and failing to build the tens of thousands of social rented homes needed to eliminate thousands of men, women and above all children living in squalor and filthy conditions."

Shelter Scotland director Alison Watson said: “Scotland is in the midst of a housing emergency; underfunded local homelessness services are on their knees and are routinely failing to meet their legal obligations.

The Herald: Alison Watson, Director of Shelter Scotland

“Every single one of these breaches will be absolutely devastating for the people affected, especially in the cases involving children.

“There are record numbers of people trapped in temporary accommodation and, as these breaches show, many of them are in places that are unsafe, miserable and in often actively harmful to their health.

“This is a direct result of social housing having been neglected by government for decades.

“Until the Scottish Government steps up and delivers the social homes we so desperately need then this will continue to happen, and it will continue to happen more often."

It comes as it emerged more children than ever are homeless and living in temporary accommodation in Scotland.

As of March this year, 9,595 youngsters were in the system - the highest since Scottish government records began in 2002.

In total, there were 29,652 open homelessness cases in March, which was a 15% rise on last year.

Meanwhile, homelessness applications increased by 9% in 2022-23 while there was a 1% drop in cases being closed.

Solace, a leading members' network for local government and public sector professionals throughout the UK has said in a July analysis that it estimates at least 125,000 homes are needed to meet the current demand.

It says that 243,603 people were on the waiting list for social housing. But only 26,102 allocations were made across the entire country.

It states that Scotland faces an “emergency” amid a “critical lack of capacity” of social housing.

West Lothian Council said that the report shows that councils across Scotland are facing "unsustainable pressure when it comes to the supply of social housing".

A spokesman said: "West Lothian is no different in this regard with the council facing significant supply versus demand issues despite significant efforts to increase the availability of social housing in the area.

“More than 3000 new homes have been added to the social housing stock in the last ten years with plans to deliver a further 1621 in the next five years. The council continues to work with local partners to deliver the maximum number of homes that our financial resources allow.

“We appreciate that demand for these new homes outstrips what we are able to deliver, but we hope to help as many local people as possible.”

A Glasgow City Council spokeswoman said: “The Unsuitable Accommodation Order was extended to all homeless households from October 1, 2021. This extension means that the maximum number of days local authorities can use bed and breakfast type accommodation for any homeless household is seven days. Glasgow is dealing with an increasing rise in homeless presentations and as such requires to use hotel/bed and breakfast facilities to ensure people are accommodated and not left on the street.

The Herald: The Labour council has pledged to build more affordable housing in the city over the next four

“At present hotels and bed and breakfast accommodation accounts for around 15% of our total homeless accommodation with the majority residing in temporary furnished properties and supported accommodation. Glasgow is reliant upon offers from housing associations who are under pressure due to a housing supply shortage which has resulted in people to remaining in emergency accommodation for longer periods and has subsequently led to the increase in breaches.”

Housing minister Paul McLennan said: “Scotland has the strongest rights across the UK nations for people experiencing homelessness and temporary accommodation should be just that; temporary.

“We are doing all we can to prevent people becoming homeless and to reduce the use of temporary accommodation and we are making £3.5 billion available in this Parliamentary term, towards the delivery of more affordable and social homes.

“Where the Scottish Housing Regulator (SHR) identifies non-compliance with the Unsuitable Accommodation Order in a local authority, an engagement plan will be published setting out what the social landlord needs to do and what the SHR will do. The SHR expects the local authority to become compliant on its own given the responsibility to do so lies with the local authority.”

It said that its survey reported 3,525 breaches of the Unsuitable Accommodation Order in the financial year of April 1, 2022 and 31 March 2023. Some 1,130 were reported in the period January to March 2023.