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Alex Neil MSP @AlexNeilSNP Cabinet Secretary for Social Justice, Communities and Pensioners’ Rights

Scotland: leading the way on homelessness

In the run up to the Scottish election on 5 May 2016 Crisis has invited representatives of the main parties to blog about the key issues in addressing homelessness in Scotland and what needs to be done in the next Parliament.

The first of these comes from Alex Neil, Cabinet Secretary for Social Justice and SNP candidate for Airdrie and Shotts and for the Central Scotland region. 

I am proud that Scotland has some of the most progressive homelessness legislation in the world which ensures that all those assessed as being unintentionally homeless are entitled to settled accommodation. There was consensus built in the first Scottish Parliament to legislate for these rights and it fell to the current Government to secure their full implementation in 2012. This is backed by a Housing Support Duty, introduced in 2013, for households assessed as requiring it, which can be important in preventing repeat homelessness. We also took steps in 2014 to strengthen the Unsuitable Accommodation Order, which ensures families with children and pregnant women are able to access appropriate temporary accommodation.

The national Homelessness Prevention and Strategy Group, attended by the Housing Minister, brings together the Scottish Government, local government, housing associations, NHS Health Scotland and the third sector to develop national homelessness policy, including promoting prevention, addressing the needs of young people and developing approaches to tackle multiple exclusion/complex needs homelessness.

While a strong statutory right to housing is an important safety net for those that become homeless, it is also important to stop people becoming homeless in the first place wherever possible. With Scottish Government support, five local authority led Regional Housing Options Hubs have been developing, and delivering, person centred services to achieve better, more sustainable, housing outcomes for families and individuals. The housing options approach has been credited with continued falls in recorded homelessness in Scotland in recent years. The commitment to continual improvement in this approach is demonstrated by the recent publication of Housing Options Guidance and the development of a Housing Options training toolkit.

An important part of our commitment to tackle and prevent homelessness is the delivery of affordable homes. We have now met and exceeded our target to deliver 30,000 new affordable homes over the lifetime of this parliament– including more than 20,000 for social rent – supported by over £1.7 billion of investment. In the next term we are committed to building a further 50,000 including 35,000 for social rent.

In addition we have ended the Right to Buy in Scotland, which will keep up to 15,500 homes within the social sector over the next 10 years and are committed to continue council building having built over 6000 so far since coming to power.

Our recently passed Private Housing (Tenancies) (Scotland) Bill will also improve security and stability for tenants who can no longer be asked to leave their home simply because the tenancy agreement has reached its end date and ensure rents can only rise once a year.

This all goes towards our aim of ensuring everyone has access to a warm and affordable home.