A SURGE in violent domestic rows is partly to blame for a spike in homeless applications in Helensburgh and the surrounding area, councillors have been told.

A report on the problem reveals that the number of homeless applications directly caused by violent rows within households in Helensburgh and Lomond rose from three in 2015-16 to 21 just two years later.

And a meeting of Argyll and Bute Council’s Helensburgh and Lomond area committee heard that the introduction of ‘full service’ Universal Credit – the basis of the UK government’s new benefits system – in Argyll and Bute later this year is only likely to make the situation worse.

And the committee’s chair has admitted she’s not sure what councillors can do to help solve the problem.

Ellen Morton told the Advertiser: “The figures were quite upsetting to hear. What was particularly interesting was that these aren’t teenage rows but rows in adult relationships.

“On the surface I’m not sure there is a great deal we as councillors can do to help, although I’m confident that we can learn from other councils where Universal Credit is already in place about what they are doing to mitigate its effects.

“I’m not an expert on social security but it does seem to be a whole different system which can be difficult for some very vulnerable people to cope with.

“Homelessness is not a problem that’s going away in Helensburgh.

“Sometimes there is a perception that Helensburgh is a very wealthy area which doesn’t have any social problems, but that’s not the case at all – and certainly doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t do whatever we can to help those in need.”

On the issue of Universal Credit, Douglas White, the council’s team leader for housing strategy, told the area committee: “Other areas near here are already in ‘full service’ and we are seeing some homeless presentations coming from those areas.

“We are in ‘live service’ at the moment, not ‘full service’, but we are already aware of difficulties and are starting to build working relationships with other agencies to mitigate the threat as much as possible.”

Figures published in April revealed a 42 per cent rise in the number of people applying to be declared homeless in Helensburgh and Lomond.

In contrast the Argyll and Bute area as a whole saw an increase of 11 per cent in the nine months to December 2017, compared with the same period a year earlier.

A total of 517 people lodged homeless applications with the council during 2017 – 178 of them in Helensburgh and Lomond.

The report did, however, state that while homeless applications had gone up, the number of applications made as a direct result of people sleeping rough in the area remained low – at 7 per cent of the total applicants.

A further report on the issue will be presented to councillors in six months.