Scottish Government puts ‘rapid rehousing’ at centre of new homelessness action plan

Rough sleeping prevention and a shift towards rapid rehousing are among the key aims of a new Scottish Government action plan to bring an end to homelessness in Scotland.

The Ending Homelessness Together Action Plan sets out measures for national and local government and the third sector who provide frontline services.

It follows a list of 70 recommendations set out by the Homelessness and Rough Sleeping Action Group, which were all accepted by the Scottish Government earlier this year.

The plan will focus on:

  • Providing a person centred approach to support individual needs
  • Putting prevention first, to minimise the risk of people becoming homeless
  • Prioritising the provision of settled and mainstreamed housing
  • Ensuring a quick and effective response by frontline workers
  • Joining up planning and resources
  • People who are living in temporary accommodation or at risk of homelessness are already being supported quickly into permanent homes through investment of £23.5 million, which is part of the £50m Ending Homelessness Together Fund.

    Communities secretary Aileen Campbell launched the plan while visiting Cyrenians’ distribution centre in Edinburgh.

    She said: “Everyone needs a safe, warm place to call home. It’s more than a place to live it’s where we feel secure, have roots and a sense of belonging.

    “The causes of homelessness can be complex and that’s why all services need to be joined up. Working together we can end homelessness for good.

    “The First Minister made a commitment in this year’s Programme for Government to end rough sleeping and homelessness and this is what will get us there. The plan builds on the many changes in homelessness and affordable housing we have delivered in recent years, including more than £3 billion to deliver 35,000 homes for social rent and the multi-million pound Ending Homelessness Together Fund.

    “I’d like to thank the Homelessness and Rough Sleeping Action Group for all their hard work that has led to this action plan.”

    Cllr Elena Whitham, COSLA’s community wellbeing spokesperson, added: “Access to good quality affordable housing is fundamental to us all - the key actions contained in this plan, to prevent homelessness occurring in the first place, personalise decisions for those affected and prioritise settled housing will contribute to better outcomes for communities across Scotland. The continued focus on services being joined up remains critical - I know Councils and our partners across the various sectors are committed to delivering on the actions contained within this plan.”

    Volunteers at the Cyrenians distribution centre were joined by cabinet secretary Aileen Campbell, housing minister Kevin Stewart, COSLA spokeswoman on community and wellbeing Elena Whitham and Crisis CEO Jon Sparkes

    Jon Sparkes, chief executive of Crisis, who chaired the Homelessness and Rough Sleeping Action Group, said: “This is an ambitious plan that firmly positions Scotland as a world-leader in ending homelessness. The turnaround has been swift and the approach is bold but achievable if the commitment is shared across local government, housing associations and homelessness charities. The plan has people at its heart and makes clear that the best approach is to prevent homelessness in the first place, however we need to see a prevention duty in law for all public bodies as well as an ambitious set of targets which demonstrates that homelessness has been ended for more people.

    “However, overall this plan presents us with a chance to get behind bold and transformative reforms, and see Scotland lead the way once again. It is a unique opportunity to get policies and services right for homeless people, but also to look beyond homelessness into the wider systemic issues of inequality and poverty to bring an end to the injustice of homelessness in Scotland once and for all.”

    Sally Thomas, Scottish Federation of Housing Association chief executive, described the publication as “a historic opportunity”.

    Ms Thomas said: “Momentum across a range of sectors to get to grips and tackle homelessness has been growing since it was included in the Programme for Government last year. This plan picks up on the recommendations of the Homelessness and Rough Sleeping Action Group; the Homelessness Prevention Strategy Group4 chaired by Kevin Stewart and Elena Whitham, has worked hard with civil servants to transform those recommendations into this actionable plan.

    “The publication of this action plan gives us a historic opportunity to make a real difference to the lives of vulnerable people across Scotland facing homelessness.

    “We have the political will, we have funding available and we have key housing agencies in housing ready to deliver. There is an appetite to do better and move Scotland towards a fairer, more equal society. Our members are already helping to tackle homelessness through practical work in communities, sustaining tenancies and giving people access to the best quality homes.

    “Let’s work together now to turn this plan into reality.”

    Commenting on the Action Plan, CIH president Jim Strang said: “CIH Scotland welcomes the publication of this new Action Plan as although homelessness is falling, the use of temporary accommodation is rising and it remains one of the biggest challenges facing Scotland today.

    “However if we are to move towards a Rapid Rehousing and Housing First approach and limit the use of temporary accommodation, it is vital that the Scottish Government keeps its focus on increasing the supply of new housing at or above existing rates across all tenures, while remaining committed to increasing affordable housing provision.”

    He added: “We are pleased to see that the Action Plan recognises the need for homelessness prevention for the most vulnerable, including women and children fleeing domestic abuse, as domestic abuse is one of the leading causes of homelessness amongst women

    “We also want to see plans to support changes to the law to allow survivors, and not perpetrators, of domestic abuse to have a right to stay in their own home whenever possible and commit to the creation of a new Emergency Fund to ensure that survivors don’t fall into financial hardship as a result of domestic abuse. This would allow survivors of domestic abuse to rebuild their lives free from the threat of homelessness.”

    Mike Dailly, principal solicitor at Govan Law Centre, was a member of the Homelessness and Rough Sleeping Action Group.

    He said: “Homelessness is entirely preventable. However we do not pretend the answers are easy. So we welcome this action plan. In particular, the wellbeing assessment for each child who is homeless, the commitment to invest in a strong affordable housing supply, and ensuring a national shift towards rapid rehousing by default.

    “We also welcome reform of the intentionality rules: to commence the local connection and intentionality provisions in the Homelessness etc. (Scotland) Act 2003 in 2019, and to develop options for the definition of intentionality to focus on ‘deliberate manipulation’ of the homelessness system.

    “And the restricting time spent in unsuitable accommodation to seven days; introduce the means to enforce and monitor standards for temporary accommodation in all tenures.

    “But the time for discussion is over. We need to put these welcome words into action to support vulnerable families who are homeless. Govan Law Centre look forward to playing its part in ending homelessness in Scotland.”

    Scotland’s membership organisation for homelessness issues welcomed the publication of the plan but highlighted the need for a ‘joined up approach’ and effective support for Third Sector organisations.

    Homeless Action Scotland, which represents voluntary sector organisations, local authorities and housing associations, said that the document would help to judge real progress in tackling homelessness.

    The charity’s chief executive, Gavin Yates, said: “Like most organisations involved in the fight to end homelessness we welcome this report and support its overall direction of travel. It’s vital that homelessness does not slip from the front of mind of government and the general population of Scotland and this document will be a useful tool to help judge progress.

    “The key to change is to ensure that all the participants in making change, work together. The government, local authorities, housing associations and NHS and health and social care partnerships need proper joined up planning and crucially need to work hand in glove with voluntary sector partners to make the change needed on the ground.

    “For Third Sector bodies to make their contribution they need security of funding beyond the one-year deals that many face. Making a significant difference takes a long-term commitment from funders to ensure that we do everything we can to remove the stain of homelessness from Scottish society.

    “Worryingly, the publication of statistics released today show an increase in Private Sector Rents, with Lothian in particular showing huge increases. This will put more stress on already under pressure households struggling to stay afloat.

    “We continue our call for a political consensus to increase the amount of socially rented accommodation to be embedded over the next two generations.

    “We have an opportunity for change and we hope that when this is debated in Holyrood on Thursday that we see a real appetite to make homelessness a relic of days past.”

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