Regulator highlights ‘considerable’ pressure on local authority homelessness services
Scotland’s councils are finding it increasingly difficult to fully meet their statutory duties on homelessness, particularly in providing temporary accommodation to people experiencing homelessness, a new report by the Scottish Housing Regulator (SHR) has found.
The report highlights that councils are making considerable efforts in very challenging circumstances to deliver effective services and some have had success in moving toward an approach with rapid rehousing at its centre. The Regulator also found that there is an emerging risk of systemic failure in their homelessness services.
The report sets out three main strategic challenges facing councils in providing services to people experiencing homelessness: dealing with the number of people in temporary accommodation; maintaining an adequate supply of temporary accommodation; and ensuring homeless people have sufficient access to permanent housing.
According to the analysis, the number of applications received by councils during 2021/22 from households looking for help with homelessness increased by 4% on the previous year to just over 35,000, but this was below the level recorded in 2019/20.
The Regulator said it has anecdotal evidence from some councils that rates of applications are increasing during the current year. Advice agencies told SHR that they hope new Prevention Duties being considered by the Scottish Government will help to reduce homelessness in the medium to long term. The Scottish Government is considering options for a new law ensuring all public bodies work together to prevent homelessness.
John Jellema, assistant director of regulation, said: “Some councils are finding it increasingly difficult to meet these challenges, and so to fully meet their statutory duties. This includes difficulties in ensuring that people with particular equality characteristics – such as single women and children – have temporary accommodation options that meet their needs.
“There are actions councils can and should take to respond to these challenges, and there are other improvements to services they can make. All councils should continue best efforts to meet their statutory obligations.
“The Scottish Government has put in place a wide range of policy actions aimed at achieving the goal of ending homelessness in Scotland. Having said that, the Scottish Government may need to consider what further urgent measures it can take to support councils to respond to the immediate challenges they face in delivering services for people who are homeless.”