The Social Renewal Advisory Board was set up by Scottish Ministers to set out proposals aimed at renewing and reinvigorating the country after the pandemic. Their detailed and far-reaching report has now been published, 10 years on from the Christie Commission. The final report titled If not now, when? sets a course for future social policy making in Scotland.
Setting out a future where inequality and disadvantage are addressed at systemic level, it includes multiple recommendations that address aspects of homelessness and destitution, based on experience gained during the pandemic as well as long-standing evidence and data. The report notes that the impact of the pandemic will further increase the need for affordable housing, with an initial step to increase housing supply through mapping existing stock and expanding programmes that convert empty properties into affordable homes for those who need them.
The firm commitment from Scottish Government and COSLA to ending homelessness is acknowledged early as part of the foreword to the far-reaching report. Among recommendations on homelessness; the right to an adequate home should be incorporated into Scots Law in line with the implementation guidelines on the ‘Right to Adequate Housing’ set out by the UN Special Rapporteur, implementing the proposals of the Prevention Review Group on a legal duty to prevent. Where people are affected by homelessness, they must have access to safe, secure, suitable and accessible housing as quickly as possible along with any extra support if they need it. It also recommends that the national plan for ending homelessness should be extended beyond 2023 for a further five years, edging towards the 10-year, two-parliamentary-terms call to end homelessness made by Everyone Home as part of the collective’s ‘manifesto’ to Scotland’s political parties.
At more than 70 pages, If Not Now, When? is a landmark in social policy, drawing together evidence, expertise and lived experience, and recognising that some people and communities will need extra help and support as part of a refreshed ambition for social and economic change with accountability