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Shelter Scotland response to LG&C Committee call for evidence on homelessness

By: Shelter Scotland  Published: June 2017


Shelter Scotland welcomes the opportunity to respond to the Local Government and Communities committee’s call for evidence on homelessness. This response sets out our position on homelessness and a range of related topics.

Summary

  • Shelter Scotland wants to see a clear strategic focus on homelessness at a national level to ensure the best possible housing outcomes for those at the sharpest end of Scotland’s housing crisis. Despite a strong legislative framework and policy and practice improvements throughout the past decade, homelessness is still too common – on average in Scotland a household becomes homeless every 20 minutes. More must be done strategically to ensure that all aspects of our public services work more effectively to tackle and prevent homelessness.
  • This is why Shelter Scotland is calling for a new national homelessness strategy, to build on the work of the 2001 Homelessness Task Force and provide national leadership and a framework for local action, which could pull together the many different strands of this complex policy area.  Given the social and economic environment and continued strain on public sector resources, it is critical that action is taken now to deliver real improvements and safeguard those that have already been achieved.
  • Shelter Scotland emphasises that our current housing system pushes too many people into homelessness, and recent welfare reforms are pushing more people further into poverty. The ongoing roll out of Universal Credit, the benefit cap reduction and the capping of housing benefit for social sector rents to Local Housing Allowance (LHA) levels directly threaten tenancies and risk pushing more people into homelessness. It is unlikely that the Scottish Government will be able to sustainably mitigate all of these changes.
  • Shelter Scotland supports the prevention of homelessness through Housing Options, however this approach must not be confused with a whole system strategic approach to preventing homelessness. It also must not be misused to gatekeep homelessness services and housing resources. We want to see better guidance, monitoring, reporting and consequences around these issues.
  • Shelter Scotland wants to see improvements in temporary accommodation standards, bringing them in line with the standards applied to permanent social housing, and for households to spend shorter times in temporary accommodation where possible.
  • While there is good work ongoing with other agencies/departments to address the root causes of homelessness, there is still need for agencies such as social work, health, criminal justice to work more collaboratively with homelessness services and the third sector to ensure joined up support and smooth transitions for households.

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