Members of All in for Change were delighted to be invited to meet new Housing Minister Paul McLennan this month. Having built positive working relationships with his predecessors, the team were clear that this was to be the first of many conversations, and focused on building a relationship that would have impact.
To bring the Minister up to speed on the work of All in for Change, the team shared the key messages from the last national roadshow, ‘Taking the Temperature’. The team informed the Minister that people are seeing progress, despite increasing pressure on the system due to housing challenges, covid recovery and the cost of living crisis.
The team had four asks to close the implementation gap between our progressive homelessness policy and the reality of homelessness services on the ground:
- Put people first by ensuring services are person-led, designed to meet the needs of people who are accessing support rather than designed to meet the needs of the systems or the organisations that work in the system.
- Less competitive tendering with a shift towards ethical commissioning models that encourage partnership between services. Longer funding cycles will allow longer contracts, more stability for practitioners and better relationships with the people they support.
- Better, fairer housing with more innovative approaches to increase the supply of good quality social housing and to create real choice in where people can live and build a good life. This would alleviate the pressure on temporary accommodation, meaning fewer transitions for people and a faster resolution to their experience of homelessness.
- Support for frontline workers because to provide quality services we need practitioners who are supported and empowered. This includes paying good wages, providing training, encouraging reflective practice, making people feel part of a team. More investment in staff wellbeing, keeping caseloads low to prevent burnout.
The Minister welcomed these messages “from the ground” and encouraged the team to continue bringing life to these issues through their personal and professional testimony. It was clear from the very beginning that the Minister shares the same values as the Change Team, he wants to understand what’s happening in reality as well as in policy and legislation. The Change Team are the perfect mechanism for this information to flow from communities back to the Minister, which is an exciting opportunity for both parties.
Going forward, the Change Team have highlighted four areas of focus and shared these with the Minister to get his take:
- Homelessness prevention as a focus given the new prevention duties on public bodies to Ask & Act, and how those without a duty can strengthen efforts to prevent homelessness closer to home, in communities.
- The team want to focus energy on influencing across the country to improve the quality and reduce the scale and use of temporary accommodation in Scotland.
- In order to reduce the use of temporary accommodation we need increased housing supply, particularly in areas where there is significant housing pressure.
- And encompassing all of the above, the team will be focusing on the No Wrong Door concept, advocating for stronger coordinated working between different services, with clearer pathways for those most at risk and no one turned away.
It seems that All in for Change and the Housing Minister are very much on the same page, with Minister McLennan sharing details of his future plans, including setting up a cross-ministerial oversight group which will be a strong catalyst for creating a system with no wrong door.
If the aim going into this meeting was to begin a positive relationship, the number of smiling faces at the end of the meeting would indicate a success! The Minister has asked to come back to All in for Change in a few weeks time to continue pushing forward towards the reality set out in the Ending Homelessness Together Action Plan.
Watch this space.