Views sought on proposed legal homelessness duties for public bodies

Public bodies will have a legal duty to ‘ask and act’ to prevent homelessness under Scottish Government proposals.

Views sought on proposed legal homelessness duties for public bodies

Representing the biggest change to Scotland’s homelessness legislation in almost a decade, the measures would be part of new laws aimed at preventing homelessness, based on recommendations from an expert group convened by the charity Crisis at the request of the Scottish Government.

Under the proposals, health and social care services, children’s services, police and other public bodies would have a legal duty to identify anyone at risk of homelessness and either take action themselves or refer on to more appropriate help.

A consultation on the plans, run jointly with COSLA, will give people with experience of homelessness, alongside those from the housing sector, public bodies and others, the chance to share their views and help shape Scotland’s approach to preventing homelessness.

Social justice secretary Shona Robison said: “We know that the best way to end homelessness is to prevent it from happening in the first place. These new proposals build on the strong housing rights that already exist in Scotland for people who become homeless. Early action should be a shared public responsibility, giving people facing homelessness more choice and control over where they live.

“Homelessness is often a traumatic and unsettling experience that can have a profound impact on the lives of those involved, including children.

“By intervening at an earlier stage, and encouraging services to work together to respond to people’s needs, we can ensure fewer people and families are faced with having to rebuild lives affected by homelessness. This will further add to our existing ambitious programme of work and investment to ensure everyone has a safe, warm place to call home.”

Jon Sparkes, chief executive of Crisis, said: “We strongly support plans for new duties for public bodies to prevent homelessness in Scotland.

“Scotland has made huge progress in its journey towards ending homelessness in recent years, but while the country has powerful protections in place for people experiencing homelessness, far too many people are being forced to reach crisis point before they get the help they need.

“Everyone has a role to play in preventing homelessness, and by introducing new duties requiring public services to ask about someone’s housing situation, and offer them the help they need, we can build a truly world-leading system of homelessness prevention.”

Councillor Kelly Parry, COSLA spokesperson for community wellbeing, added: “People have a right to a place they can call home. Rough sleeping and sofa surfing is something we have always worked to eliminate. We welcome the proposal that the duty to end homelessness will be shared with other public bodies and look forward to being closely engaged in the consultation with other partners.”

The Prevention of Homelessness Duties consultation closes on March 31.

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