Support system flaw forces people to choose between residential rehabilitation or keeping home
Scores of people battling with addiction issues are being forced to choose between going into residential rehabilitation facilities or keeping their home, Shelter Scotland has revealed.
The housing charity said there is a flaw in the support system whereby people with a home and require housing benefit to help pay their rent, but who need to enter residential rehabilitation to get support for their addiction, are often faced with an impossible choice of either keeping their home or accessing essential residential treatment.
This is because many Third Sector rehabilitation facilities are not funded directly by the Scottish Government or local authorities and require the person to claim housing benefit for when they are resident with them, in order to pay for the rehab costs. Without this payment, the rehabilitation facility cannot afford to operate and provide the support required, and, due to the housing benefit regulations, a person entering one of these residential rehab facilities cannot claim housing benefit for their home and the rehab facility.
This leaves them with what can be a life or death choice: either losing their home or going into residential rehabilitation. A very stark choice in Scotland, where the country has witnessed 1,264 deaths due to drug misuse in 2019 – a record number of deaths for the sixth year in a row.
And, according to the charity, this gap in the provision of funded addiction support will hinder the rolling out of the ‘Housing First’ model in Scotland for people with complex needs, which is based on the premise that providing a home first is the best option, and then quickly providing the right support to ensure they can address their health needs and sustain their tenancy.
Shelter Scotland has written to the Scottish Government to ask what can be done to stop people falling through the cracks and having to choose between rehab and keeping their home.
Alison Watson, the charity’s director, said: “This situation is causing a great deal of distress, causing homelessness and, in one tragic case, a client lost his life as he died after he left rehab early, as he was so concerned he would lose his home. We are therefore asking for an emergency fund to be set up immediately to ensure that people can enter these rehabs and not have to lose their home.
“We have significant concerns about this issue and believe it requires urgent Scottish Ministerial action to ensure that funding is provided so that people are not having to choose between keeping their home or going to rehab, or risking eviction as they build up rent arrears while in rehab. We would look to the Scottish Government to review how these services are funded and ensure that in the long-term provision is made for those who require this life saving support.”