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In Their Own Words: Children's Experiences of Temporary Accommodation
(Shelter Scotland 2023-2024)

Shelter Scotland will work in partnership with Professor Lakhanpaul, University College London and Dr Svirydzenka, De Montfort University to explore the impact that temporary accommodation (TA) has on children in Scotland. When a household becomes homeless, they have the right to be housed in temporary accommodation until they can be moved into a permanent home. This research will capture and amplify the voices of children and their families living in TA, and provide a wealth of evidence and knowledge on the impact that TA has on them.


In Scotland there is a record number of children living in temporary accommodation (9,130 as of September 2022) and 22% of households with children will, on average, spend more than 1 year in TA. Anecdotally, we know staying in TA is damaging to children and their health and wellbeing, relationships, education and future life chances, however, there is little research to substantiate this.


This research will provide a strong piece of qualitative evidence with children’s voices and lived experience at its heart and will ensure that the evidence gap we currently have in Scotland is filled. It will reveal, in the children’s own words, the impact that a stay in TA can have. Shelter Scotland would also look to ensure that if possible children from groups with protected characteristic will be supported to participate in the research - particularly children from minority ethnic groups. 


Shelter Scotland will use the findings of this research to raise awareness of the impact that a stay in TA can have on children. We will also make policy recommendations on how to improve TA in Scotland to reduce the harm it causes. The research will be used by Shelter Scotland as part of our campaign calling on the Scottish Government to build the social homes required to ensure that children and their families are able to move on quickly from TA and into a permanent home.

This study will address the lack of primary research around children’s experiences of temporary accommodation and the impact it has on them.


This study contributes to Nuffield’s goal of improving lives through understanding how people’s health, happiness and economic prosperity is affected by different social and economic factors, in this case in homeless children who have spent periods of time in temporary accommodation. This research will allow us to identify what policy changes might address the effects of homelessness and temporary accommodation on children and how we can mitigate the impact it has.


Despite positive rhetoric from the Scottish Government around tackling homelessness, national records show that there is a record number of children stuck in temporary accommodation for increasingly longer periods of time. Since 2014, the numbers of children in TA increased by 150%, and as of the 30th September 2022 stands at 9,130 children.


Couples with children spend, on average, 345 days in temporary accommodation, compared to a couple without children who spend on average 205 in TA.  

In Edinburgh, the average for a couple with children is 725 days. This project is vital in providing primary evidence of the effects living in temporary accommodation has on children and family life and helping to shape policy recommendations to mitigate the effects.


This project will provide evidence of the impact TA is having on children in Scotland and to encourage the Scottish Government to take action to address the high numbers of children living in TA. It will enable us to make policy recommendations to improve TA in Scotland, to reduce the negative impact it has on children’s lives.


What makes this work distinctive, is the focus on capturing the voices and lived experience of children themselves. Our study addresses the lack of peer-led inclusive research and collaboration with people with lived experiences, which is central to this study. It aims to fill the gaps in the literature and generate deliverables based on knowledge exchange principles with key stakeholders throughout the study.


In terms of how this project builds on previous work in this area, there have been several studies undertaken which examine the experiences of children in homelessness and bad housing in the UK. However, there is no Scotland specific research in this area.

As housing is devolved, Scotland’s TA policy landscape is very different which means the experiences of children in TA are also likely to differ. This therefore creates the need for a piece of research which specifically examines the experience of children in Scotland living in temporary accommodation.


The CHAMPIONS project, funded by the ESRC in 2020 and recently completed (September 2022) was led by Professor Lakhanpaul and co-led by Dr Svirydzenka. It is a national project looking at the impact of COVID and living through lockdown on children in England under 5 who are living in TA. The team were worked alongside families and professionals to co-develop recommendations for future support and best practices using qualitative and quantitative methodologies. The project generated evidence to support policy and service transformation. 


Professor Lakhanpal and Dr Svirydzenka are highly experienced in carrying out research in this subject area and with similar participants.




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