Fiona McPhail: Regulator’s report into Glasgow City Council confirms concerns raised by Shelter Scotland

Shelter Scotland’s lead solicitor Fiona McPhail gives her reaction to the outcome of the Scottish Housing Regulator’s inquiry into Glasgow City Council’s homelessness services.

Fiona McPhail: Regulator's report into Glasgow City Council confirms concerns raised by Shelter Scotland

Fiona McPhail

This week, the Scottish Housing Regulator published the report of its inquiry into Glasgow City Council’s (GCC) homelessness services.

The report confirms that GCC failed to ensure it had enough suitable temporary accommodation prior to the coronavirus pandemic and did not provide temporary accommodation to significant numbers of people when they needed it.

We at Shelter Scotland welcome the report. It confirms the concerns we’ve repeatedly raised and were prepared to litigate. And more importantly, it makes concrete recommendations which, if followed through, will deliver the positive change we’ve been calling for.

The Regulator’s recommendations are as follows:    

As it comes out of the period of response to the public health emergency the council should:

  • ensure that it has an adequate level of suitable temporary accommodation to always meet its duty to provide temporary accommodation and to comply with the requirements of the Unsuitable Accommodation Order;
  • develop and implement a Temporary Accommodation Strategy based on an up to date analysis of the need and demand for temporary accommodation and the diverse needs of service users;
  • provide staff with clear guidance and procedures and training to help them make appropriate decisions on providing temporary accommodation in accordance with the legislation; and
  • ensure that it has sufficient capacity to sustain the improvements it has made and deliver its recovery plan.’

If the council follows through with these recommendations, we should see the following:

Firstly, we should see the council obtain additional temporary homeless accommodation, so that everyone who is entitled to temporary accommodation is offered it when they need it.

Secondly, an end to the prioritisation of homeless applicants based on their vulnerability. We’re glad to see the Regulator acknowledge (in para 3.15 of the report) that priority need has no role to play in the operation of Scotland’s homelessness services.

Thirdly, clear guidance and procedures for staff on how they should comply with the council’s statutory duties. The frontline caseworkers are being asked to do a difficult job in challenging circumstances, often working with very vulnerable people. It is only right that they have the necessary training and support in place to enable them to deliver homeless services.

And finally, an assessment of need and demand which factors in the diverse needs of service users – which will hopefully go some way to address the unsuitable nature of the currently available temporary homeless accommodation.

We welcome the report and are ready to work with the Regulator and the council to ensure that its recommendations become a reality. Nobody should be told ‘sorry, there is no accommodation available tonight’. 

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