Unsuitable accommodation backtrack a ‘betrayal’ of promises to homeless people

A Scottish Government decision to delay its own commitment to extend suitable accommodation laws to cover all homeless people is a “betrayal” of its promises, Shelter Scotland has said.

Gordon MacRae

Housing minister Kevin Stewart announced in May that the Unsuitable Accommodation Order, which prohibits local councils from placing pregnant women or families with children into bed and breakfasts (B&Bs) or hotels for more than seven days, would be extended to all homeless households.

The change had been fast-tracked in response to the coronavirus outbreak.

However, a statutory instrument laid before the Scottish Parliament will, if it comes into force, include a new exemption to the Unsuitable Accommodation Order up to 31 January 2021, allowing local authorities to indefinitely place many homeless households in unsuitable temporary accommodation.

Gordon MacRae, assistant director for communications and advocacy at Shelter Scotland, said the decision to delay new protections for homeless people is a “betrayal of promises Scottish Ministers made at the start of the pandemic”.

He added: “In May, Scottish Ministers promised to end the practice of councils placing anyone who is homeless in damp, dangerous or otherwise unsuitable temporary accommodation before the worst of the winter months set in. Today, they are proposing delaying these vital protections until spring. This about face will allow councils to shirk their moral duty to provide a safe home for people who are homeless during the pandemic.

“We understand that local budgets are under pressure. But if Ministers can fund a stamp duty holiday for homeowners, they can afford to provide people who’ve lost their homes with a decent place to stay. This is a political choice that will have devastating consequences for individuals and undermine public health efforts. We’re calling on the government to urgently reconsider its priorities.”

The Scottish Government has been contacted for a response.

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