Fight to end homelessness comes to Holyrood

20/04/2012

Housing organisations, local councils and other bodies working to tackle homelessness in Scotland are gathering at Holyrood next week (Wednesday 25 April at 12.30pm) to meet MSPs ahead of a debate in the Chamber at 2pm that afternoon.

The event has been organised by the Scottish Parliament’s Infrastructure and Capital Investment Committee.

Attendees will discuss the findings of the Committee’s report on progress being made towards meeting Scotland’s ground-breaking 2012 homelessness commitment prior to the afternoon’s debate in the Chamber.

In 2003, the Scottish Parliament passed the bill which became the Homelessness etc. (Scotland) Act 2003. This Act created a commitment that will entitle all unintentionally homeless people to settled accommodation by the end of 2012. 

During its 4-month-long inquiry, the Committee heard that major steps had been taken to meeting the target as a result of local authorities assessing individual circumstances more effectively and preventing homelessness.

Convener of the Infrastructure and Capital Investment Committee Maureen Watt MSP said: “Committees invite evidence from a wide variety of organisations and individuals in the course of our inquiries and reflect on their views when we prepare our reports.

"In a first for this Committee, we have invited those we heard from back to the Parliament to discuss the conclusions contained in our final report.

"This will help to further inform Committee members as we head to the Chamber in the afternoon to debate the matter with all MSPs.”

On the commitment to ending homelessness, the Convener added: “Our Committee welcomes the significant progress made towards ensuring that every unintentionally homeless person has a right to settled accommodation, with the latest statistics showing a 20% reduction in homelessness across Scotland.

"It is imperative that this positive work continues and that we do everything we can to ensure that it is not undermined by potential obstacles such as the changes expected under the UK Welfare Reform Act.

“We will continue to monitor the situation following the full implementation of this landmark legislation by the end of this year.”

Attendees at the pre-debate event include:

  • Angela, who has used Shelter Scotland services, has agreed to speak to Committee members about her experience of homelessness, the options available to her at the time and raising a family in temporary accommodation
  • COSLA, plus local authority representatives from North Ayrshire, City of Edinburgh, Inverclyde and East Lothian
  • Housing groups including Scottish Federation of Housing Associations and Glasgow Housing Association
  • Groups working with homeless people, including Turning Point Scotland, Shelter Scotland, Scottish Council for Single Homeless.

The Committee’s report:

  • highlighted the importance of the housing options approach adopted across Scotland in working towards meeting the 2012 commitment
  • recommended on-going support from the Scottish Government to encourage further development of this approach
  • advocated the development of a measurement tool for homelessness
  • recommended developing partnership working across different services and ensuring that housing associations and voluntary sector organisations are included in the work of the Housing Options “Hubs” 
  • recommended that debt counselling should be included in support offered to homeless people.

Whilst acknowledging the work which had been done so far, the report also noted the potential obstacles to meeting the 2012 commitment. These include changes expected under the UK Welfare Reform Act which it is expected will place increased pressures on local authorities.

The committee, which will monitor the implementation of the 2012 commitment for the rest of the session, examined the importance of preventative work and asked the Scottish Government to consider including money advice and debt counselling as an integral part of the housing support to be made available to persons who are homeless.

Background

Scotland’s 2012 homelessness commitment was created under the Homelessness etc. (Scotland) Act 2003. It entitles all unintentionally homeless people to settled accommodation from the end of 2012.

Figures issued by the Scottish Government showed that there was a 20% reduction in homelessness applications in April to September 2011 (11,980 applications) compared to the same period in 2010 (15,033 applications).

Figures received by the committee showed the variation amongst local authorities across Scotland in making progress towards meeting the 2012 commitment.

Currently, local authorities have to secure settled accommodation for those homeless applicants who have been assessed as unintentionally homeless and in priority need.

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