Crisis chief executive to chair homelessness and rough sleeping action group

Jon Sparkes
Jon Sparkes

Housing minister Kevin Stewart has revealed further details of a new short term action group which will identify the actions needed to end rough sleeping in Scotland, including its new chair.

Announced by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon as she delivered her Programme for Government for 2017/18 to the Scottish Parliament earlier this month, the action group will also aim to transform the use of temporary accommodation across the country.

The announcement also included a new £50 million ‘Ending Homelessness Together’ fund, which will be used to back the commitment and fund homelessness prevention initiatives over the next five years, and an additional £20m investment in alcohol and drug services.

Jon Sparkes, chief executive of the homelessness charity Crisis, will chair the action group and a panel of members drawn from the public sector, third sector, social enterprise and academic experts in this area will be appointed shortly.

The action group will meet early next month and will examine:

  • Plans to minimise rough sleeping this winter;
  • How to eradicate rough sleeping for good;
  • Ways to transform temporary accommodation;
  • How to bring about an end to homelessness in Scotland.
  • In a Ministerial statement to the Scottish Parliament yesterday, Mr Stewart said the findings from the local government committee’s inquiry on homelessness will be taken into account, both in the context of the rapid work to be undertaken by the Homelessness & Rough Sleeping Action Group, and in the longer term work of the Homelessness Prevention & Strategy Group.

    He said: “The committee’s exploration of people’s experiences of accessing homelessness services, and the underlying issues that can contribute to housing problems, will be valuable in developing the solutions needed to achieve our collective ambitions.

    “During my time as Minister I have spoken to people experiencing homelessness and housing professionals. It is clear to me that to achieve our aims we need services which really place the person at the centre and treat them with dignity and respect.

    “That is why I have asked Jon Sparkes to ensure that talking to people with direct, personal experience of homelessness is central to the group’s work.”

    The minister also highlighted the “crucial” role of councils in helping people access their rights, particularly against the background of austerity and welfare reform. He pledged to continue to work positively and closely with councils, through the existing Homelessness Prevention and Strategy Group, jointly chaired by the Scottish Government and COSLA.

    Mr Stewart said: “We want to see an end to rough sleeping and the appointment of our Homelessness and Rough Sleeping Action Group will lead the way in recommending the actions and legislative changes we need to take across all levels of government, to tackle homelessness and the use of temporary accommodation.

    “I am delighted to announce Jon Sparkes will chair the action group. Jon brings with him a wealth of knowledge and expertise in homelessness and will provide real value and leadership to the group.

    “We are committed to eradicating rough sleeping in Scotland and know this requires more than just the provision of housing- every individual has their own unique needs and challenges. To achieve this we need to ensure we have a joined up approach across all sectors to improve prevention.

    “Scotland has led the way in ensuring rights for homeless people and we want to continue to lead the way and transform the outcomes for those that feel they are stuck in a cycle of homelessness and poverty.”

    Jon Sparkes added: “It’s an honour to be asked to chair this action group which will bring forward solutions to help end homelessness in Scotland.

    “The Scottish Government has rightly identified that a renewed effort is required to stop more people experiencing different forms of homelessness. Their £50m ‘Ending Homelessness Together’ fund along with their commitment to end rough sleeping and transform the use of temporary accommodation will change people’s lives.

    “I firmly believe we can end homelessness for good, we know the scale of the problem and this group will focus firmly on deliverable solutions which prevent, tackle and end homelessness for people. There’s some hard work to be done but I believe the expertise and knowledge of those on the group means we will be up to the challenge and I look forward to quickly getting to work.

    “This year marks 50 years from when Crisis was founded, but this is not a cause for celebration with homelessness still so prevalent. It is time for us to think afresh about solutions to the problem and Crisis is working across Great Britain to develop an evidence-based plan for how to end homelessness. For Crisis there is simply no place for scepticism or hesitation. It is our firm belief that together, we will end homelessness.”

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