Housing minister Kevin Stewart blogs about the latest meeting of the Homelessness Prevention and Strategy Group.
Last week, the First Minister reiterated our commitment to prevent, tackle and end homelessness with the publication of the Programme for Government.
This week I chaired a meeting of the Homelessness Prevention and Strategy Group, which is now tasked with taking forward the 70 recommendations made by the Homelessness and Rough Sleeping Action Group.
Myself and my co-chair Councillor Elena Whitham have been delighted with the strong commitment to end homelessness from the group. We are also grateful for the insight and expertise they brought to the meeting and to the Action Group before that.
The main focus of the meeting was about turning the Action Group’s recommendations into reality. In order to be able to do that, the Strategy Group will now oversee development of a comprehensive action plan and I will set out further details later this year.
During the meeting, we discussed how it is essential that we address all elements of homelessness, which includes tackling the root causes, such as poverty and adverse childhood experiences. To make sure we keep this at the heart of our work, we agreed to develop an ‘Outcomes Framework’ that will look across the issues.
I have always been clear that rapid rehousing and the Housing First approach is central to our commitment to tackle, prevent and end homelessness. This will require local authorities, providers and the third sector to work together to support individuals and families. At the meeting, we discussed the development of Rapid Rehousing Transition Plans and I was encouraged to hear about the progress that has been made so far and the work being undertaken to help support local authorities produce a first iteration of these plans. We have already announced that £21 million of funding has been earmarked for rapid rehousing and Housing First, which will help get people sleeping rough and those living in temporary accommodation into permanent homes more quickly.
We also reflected on the success of last winter’s initiatives, coordinated by the Action Group, and heard about the work underway to ensure that we learn from last year as we put plans in place in advance of the coming winter. While ensuring heightened provision is available for those in need, we know that people make the biggest difference and the valuable work that outreach workers provide will be a cornerstone of services this winter and in a new national model for frontline delivery.
The Strategy Group is clear that in addition to homelessness and housing services we need partners across services including health, education, social work and justice community support to recognise and act when people they work with are at risk of homelessness. They highlighted the particular importance of ensuring the clear links between Health and Homelessness in Scotland are addressed and that we maximise the positive contribution the work on homelessness can offer, for example in the refresh of Housing Contribution Statements. Getting this right means ensuring public sector partners can support people in the best possible way.
Our shared ambition is bold and clear, we must create the environment for significant and lasting change. That means working across and outside traditional boundaries and developing collaborative approaches. We can and we must end homelessness together.