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Beth Reid @crisisscotland Policy Manager (Scotland)

Five steps to tackling homelessness in Scotland

With the Scottish parliamentary election just six weeks away, the political campaigns are hotting up.

There has been much talk in recent years of a fairer Scotland, a Scotland where we support the most vulnerable.

Homeless people are some of the most vulnerable and socially excluded in our society. Yet the topic of homelessness has not always been present in these debates.

A few years ago there was a strong political consensus which led to groundbreaking legislation, abolishing priority categories of need and giving all unintentionally homeless people a right to settled accommodation.

But now, once again we are seeing more and more people sleeping on the streets of our cities.

Ongoing changes to the benefits system and cuts to council budgets mean that the support available for people who are homeless or at risk of homelessness will come under increasing pressure over the next few years.

Tackling homelessness must be at the heart of how we create a better Scotland.

Crisis believes that ending homelessness can be a reality within a generation, if the political will is there to do it. Today we launch Crisis’ manifesto to end homelessness. These are some of the steps we believe are necessary on that journey.

1. A new cross departmental strategy for tackling homelessness
Homelessness is not just a housing issue: often homelessness is both the consequence and cause of many other issues in an individual’s life. By working together across government, including health and social care, safer communities, and employability and skills, we can use resources more efficiently and tackle homelessness before it becomes a crisis.

2. Stronger prevention and early intervention
Preventing homelessness makes sense from both a humanitarian and financial perspective. But research shows that most prevention work in Scotland focuses on information and signposting to other services, rather than actively resolving the situation. Clearly there is more to do to prevent homelessness.

3. Increase support for homeless people with complex needs
Many people who are homeless in Scotland have complex needs, requiring support with mental health, substance dependency, living independently or managing their physical health. We know providing the right combination of housing and support through models like Housing First can make a real difference. We need to commit to making this more widely available. Alongside this, integrating services locally, planning and commissioning strategically will prevent people who need support from different services from falling through the gaps.

4. Time limit temporary accommodation
Homeless people are spending longer and longer in temporary accommodation. We need to be proactive to reduce the use of temporary accommodation. No one should have to stay in unsuitable temporary accommodation such as bed and breakfasts, except as an emergency stopgap. We’ve achieved this for families – now it’s time to extend this right to all homeless people.

5. Commit to using devolved powers on social security to prevent homelessness
The new powers gained through the Scotland Bill need to be used to protect people from homelessness. Relatively small adjustments to support for housing costs, such as allowing private tenants to have their rent paid direct to their landlord, could help create a stronger safety net for people on low incomes.

Of course, underpinning all of this is making sure there is enough housing for everyone. That is why we support the call of Shelter Scotland, CIH and others for a commitment to more affordable housing.

 

We are delighted that our manifesto has already been endorsed by Cabinet Secretary for social justice Alex Neil, as well as garnering support from the Scottish Labour and Conservatives.

We urge all parties to commit to tackling homelessness and support these five areas in their manifestos, so that Scotland maintains its world-leading position in tackling the injustice of homelessness and we achieve our ambition of ending homelessness in a generation.