NEW experimental figures published by the National Records of Scotland (NRS) show that North and South Ayrshire were two of the worst affected areas when it comes to homelessness deaths.

The data, which covers the number of people who died while homeless in 2019, show that South Ayrshire was behind Inverclyde, at number two on the list, with a death rate of 120.3 per million of population.

That translates to 10 lives estimated to be lost across the year due to homelessness - that's a massive increase from 2017 and 2018 when only one homeless person was estimated to have died in each year.

North Ayrshire was third on the list with a per million rate of 111.8, or 11 people estimated to have died. That's an increase on the estimates in previous years, when in 2017 and 2018 four people were estimated to have died each year.

NRS estimate that 216 people died in Scotland in 2019, an increase of 11 per cent on the estimate of 195 in 2018.

The average age of those who died in 2019 was 43 years-old for men and 39 for women and more than half of homeless deaths (54 per cent) were drug-related.

Almost three-quarters (73 per cent) of deaths among people experiencing homelessness were male (157) and 27 per cent were female (59).

Scotland had the highest homeless death rate when compared to England and Wales in 2019 with a rate of 52.2 per million population aged 15-74 compared to 18 in England and 14.3 in Wales.

Julie Ramsay, NRS head of vital events, said: “Given the importance of having information on the number of homeless deaths in Scotland, we worked with Office for National Statistics (ONS) to develop this methodology to provide estimates.

“While these statistics help our understanding of this issue, it’s important to understand these figures are currently experimental and the methodology is under development.

“These estimates do provide context and show that homeless deaths have increased for the second consecutive year, with an 11 per cent increase on the estimate in 2018.”

NRS also said the Western Isles had a high rate (191.4) but advised that as this was based on a small number of identified deaths the result should be treated with caution.

Housing Minister Kevin Stewart said that ending homelessness is a priority for the Scottish Government.

He said: “Each one of these deaths is a tragedy, representing some of the most vulnerable people in our society.

“While this report is based on experimental statistics, its findings will help the Scottish Government to further understand the many issues affecting the most vulnerable in our society as we redouble our efforts to eradicate homelessness.

“Ending homelessness once and for all is a priority for the Scottish Government. We have some of the strongest rights in the world for people experiencing homelessness and everyone who is threatened with homelessness is entitled to help from their local authority to secure a stable home."