Ministers pledge immediate actions to tackle rough sleeping this winter
New actions recommended by the Scottish Government’s Homelessness and Rough Sleeping Action Group to further tackle rough sleeping this winter are to be put into place thanks to new funds.
Backed by an initial £328,000 worth of investment from government and group members, the measures include increasing emergency accommodation in areas with the greatest numbers of rough sleepers, making personal budgets available to front line workers to meet immediate housing needs, and supporting greater use of the emergency Nightstop service.
Since its first meeting on October 5, the Action Group has worked at pace, and closely with local authorities and partners, to identify areas where there is the greatest need and actions that can have the most impact.
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon was joined by housing minister Kevin Stewart and Action Group chair and chief executive of Crisis UK, Jon Sparkes, to announce the plans on a visit to homelessness charity Streetwork.
The First Minister said: “I want to thank the Action Group for the serious and urgent work they have done. These actions, which the government accepts in full and will roll out immediately, will provide more support for those who find themselves homeless and more safe and warm places to stay this winter.
“We have a shared commitment to eradicate rough sleeping and end homelessness which is why we established the Action Group, backed by £50 million to drive change.
“While we take these immediate steps to help those who find themselves at risk of rough sleeping this winter, the Group’s work now continues as we strive to end rough sleeping for good.”
Jon Sparkes added: “As the cold weather bites, it’s critical to support as many people sleeping on the streets as possible. However, the longer-term focus of the Action Group is on sustainable solutions which prevents people rough sleeping in the first place and our focus is now on looking at the practical and systems changes required to end rough sleeping for good.
“These proposals mean that immediate, effective support can be given to people sleeping rough this winter, as well as making longer-term solutions easier to access.
“The effort and energy of Action Group members to work quickly to identify practical support along with the willingness of council leaders and sector colleagues to commit to more flexible practices at short notice has been remarkable.
“The decision to accept our recommendations and the fact that the First Minister is leading on the Scottish Government’s commitment to accept our recommendations and provide additional funding is vitally important. Not only will this ensure plans are put into place as quickly as possible but it also inspires confidence that the leadership required to meet the long-term goal of ending homelessness in Scotland is in place.”
Focused on the areas identified as the greatest numbers of rough sleepers, the full recommendations of the group include:
- Increase emergency accommodation in Edinburgh, and increase outreach capacity in Edinburgh, Glasgow, and Aberdeen
- Boost multi-agency partnership working, adopting ‘by name lists’ and empowering front line workers through direct access to services and dedicated accommodation
- Making personal budgets and/or flexible emergency fund available for front line staff to employ where maximum flexibility is required to meet immediate housing needs
- At times of extreme weather, ensure flexible provision is available in Edinburgh and Glasgow for anyone who will not use winter night shelters, despite all efforts
- Maximise use of Nightstop – which provide young people with emergency accommodation for up to 2 weeks in the homes of approved volunteers – in Edinburgh and support implementation in Glasgow by January 2018
The actions announced by the First Minister include an additional caseworker/solicitor being made available in Glasgow provided by Govan Law Centre (GLC).
Action Group member, and GLC’s principal solicitor, Mike Dailly, said: “No-one should have to sleep rough this winter and these additional resources will make a real difference. All public and third sector agencies have a part to play this winter if we are to realise the ambition of making rough sleeping rare and unnecessary in Scotland. This is a key step towards delivering the First Minister’s commitment to eradicating rough sleeping in Scotland.”
David Duke, founder of Street Soccer Scotland and also a member of the Action Group, added: “The recommendations of the Action Group for this winter are about saving lives and ensuring that anyone who is experiencing rough sleeping has access to additional support and shelter. However, we know that this can only be a short term solution.
“In the long term, the focus for the Action Group, local and national governments, and everyone in the sector, must be on how we provide good quality housing and living standards for those affected by homelessness. This also means considering how best to provide high standards of support, and provide people who are homeless with security, relationships and purpose to help them on the road out of homelessness.”