Jon Sparkes: Progress made on tackling homelessness
CEO of Crisis and chair of the Homelessness and Rough Sleeping Action Group Jon Sparkes marks the progress made since the launch of the Ending Homelessness Together Action Plan.
The Scottish Government asked some big questions of the Homelessness and Rough Sleeping Action Group (HARSAG) reflecting a serious commitment to addressing homelessness in Scotland. The ambition set out in the high-level action plan ‘Ending Homelessness Together’ showed that HARSAG had been listened to, and our recommendations had been taken seriously.
The HARSAG brought together the expertise of its members, but more importantly the group was in contact with more than 400 people with personal lived experience of homelessness and hundreds of professional colleagues from across the homelessness and housing sector, as well as having access to the best analysis and evidence available. Our recommendations were clear that homelessness needs tackling both by dealing with the root causes and through taking on board the evidence of what works and what has worked.
The Ending Homelessness Together plan, when fully implemented will have a significant impact. It is a joined-up and cross-government plan, and needs to be implemented as such. The big root-cause questions need to be addressed including some that require action by the UK Government as well as action in Scotland from the Scottish Government, local authorities, housing associations and many, many other organisations.
The Scottish Government’s commitment to building social homes needs to continue, and local authorities and housing associations need to continue to work effectively together to ensure that where homelessness happens it is only ever very rare, very brief and is not repeated by ensuring people at risk of homelessness are rapidly re-housed and not put through the damaging experiences of unsuitable temporary and emergency accommodation. Every part of the public service needs to play its part to prevent homelessness so that we remove the ongoing link between experiencing care, prison, mental health and other health services and going on to experience homelessness in the short or long term.
The development of the workforce to adopt the very best practices in homelessness prevention and supporting people who are at risk of or experiencing homelessness is an essential part of the Scottish Government’s plan. Changes in practice and approaches also need to be underpinned in law and properly funded. It is especially welcome that the Scottish Government has prioritised the work on a prevention duty to add to the already advanced legal approach to homelessness in Scotland. A prevention duty should be applied to local authorities, wider public bodies and delivery partners, ensuring the law encourages and ensures that those services work together to stop homelessness happening in the first place.
The Scottish Government has taken a bold position on ending homelessness, and has demonstrated in the first year of the Ending Homelessness Together plan that it is determined to tackle and end homelessness by supporting people and by preventing homelessness. It is clearly following through on the commitments it made when the HARSAG was created.