‘This is unacceptable’ – investigating children’s experiences of temporary accommodation in Scotland

The skyline of Glasgow, Scotland's most heavily populated city. By John Lindie - originally posted to Flickr as Glasgow from Queens Park, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=4743369

Researchers are working on a new project aimed at better understanding children’s experiences of living in temporary accommodation in Scotland.

University College London (UCL) says almost 10,000 children are living in temporary accommodation north of the border because there is a lack of suitable homes for their families to be rehoused in.

Now the homeless charity Shelter Scotland has commissioned Professor Monica Lakhanpaul of UCL Great Ormond Street Institute of Child Health and Dr  Nadia Svirydzenka of De Montfort University, Leicester to investigate the issues underpinning this problem.

The aim is to ensure the voices of children aged from birth right up to 18 years are placed firmly the centre of the research, and look at their experiences through their eyes. The idea is to harness the youngsters’ creativity in interpreting their stories, through words, stories, and drawings. Parents can also reflect on the impact of temporary accommodation on their children’s physical and mental health, social relationships, and overall development.

‘This is unacceptable’

Professor Lakhanpaul said: “The importance of the home on child health and wellbeing is often underestimated. There are increasing numbers of children living in temporary accommodation, but their voices are often not heard. It is essential that we hear from children directly, and not just their parents or carers. This project will allow us to hear from the children first hand so that we can ensure action takes place to improve their lives, experiences and future opportunities.”

Shelter Scotland will use the findings to encourage the Scottish Government and local authorities to build more social housing, with the aim of ensuring children and their families are able to move on quickly from temporary accommodation and into something permanent where they can properly put down roots.

The researchers hope will also help lead to policy recommendations on how temporary accommodation in Scotland can be improved to reduce the negative impact it has on children’s lives.

Dr Svirydzenka said: “Putting children’s experiences front and centre of a research inquiry into their experiences in temporary accommodation aims to shift how policy and systems around the child see their agency and ability to narrate their own experiences. Children need to have the power to speak to their rights for a home that allows them to be safe, healthy, and educated. It is a time we listen, or it will cost us in the future.”

Alison Watson, Director of Shelter Scotland, said: “We know that life in temporary accommodation is disruptive to health and wellbeing, it can impact on education and relationships. With a record number of children living in temporary accommodation, this research will reveal, in the children’s own words, any positive aspects of temporary accommodation but also the significant and damaging impact that it can have.

“There is a housing emergency in Scotland, with 45 children becoming homeless every day. It’s important for us to better understand the impact that being put into temporary accommodation is having on children. A generation of children in Scotland are being stripped of their right to grow up in a secure, safe home and are unable to achieve their full potential. This is unacceptable.

“Those in power must understand that social housing shouldn’t be considered an expense but rather an investment.  With more than 9,000 kids in Scotland with nowhere to call home, delivering social housing is ultimately investing in the future.”

Author: Simon Weedy

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