Major report on veterans’ homelessness

A detailed new report into veterans’ homelessness in Scotland is recommending that every local authority housing department should have an Armed Forces Lead Officer, social landlords should prioritise ex-Service personnel and more support should be provided for tenancy sustainment in the private rented sector. These are among 24 recommendations in the report published by Veterans’ Scotland Housing Group.

The group was asked by the Scottish Government to produce a report looking in detail at factors leading to or contributing to homelessness among people leaving the forces. The ‘Veterans’ Homelessness Prevention Pathway’ has been produced in partnership by Homeless Network Scotland, Housing Options Military Matters, Scottish Veterans Residences, Veterans Housing Scotland, Veterans Scotland and the report’s author is Dr Steve Rolfe, from University of Stirling. It will feed into the Government’s Ending Homelessness Together Action Plan, which includes Pathways similar to this one for other groups at particular risk.

Approximately 800 homelessness applications annually in Scotland are from households with a member who was previously in the Services. Concerns remain that the true figure could be higher. Veterans affected by homelessness are more likely than non-veterans to experience rough sleeping and other complex issues, with one estimate quoted in the Pathway report attributing service experiences as a cause of homelessness in around 25% of cases. Also highlighted in the report is that homelessness can occur many years after discharge from the Forces because of what is known as ‘delayed transition’ which can be due to a reluctance to seek help or the deferred impact of previous trauma.

The report highlights an additional housing challenge for military households in the degree of mobility they experience. Moving around can make it more difficult to buy a home until nearer the end of a military career, with single people often finding transition particularly difficult if they have lived in Armed Forces accommodation for many years.

Sam was a Combat Medical Technician in Afghanistan before a knee injury and post traumatic stress disorder led to her being medically discharged. Sam could not find settled housing and was struggling to see a positive outcome until getting help from support organisations and the local council last year. Sam now has a home and a pet dog called Kiera – she is training to become a paramedic.

Sam said: “When I was preparing to leave the Army, I found it difficult to navigate the housing system, I had no knowledge of homelessness and in the job, everything is provided. I think people leaving the Forces find it hard to ask for help sometimes, either because of pride or just not knowing where to go. I am grateful to Housing Options Scotland, Veterans Housing Scotland and East Lothian Council. This place is so much more than a new home, it represents a new start and I want to say a big thank you to everyone who helped me along the way.”

Housing Secretary, Shona Robison MSP, said:

“I welcome this report and thank everyone involved for the time spent developing its recommendations. We’re working to end homelessness in Scotland once and for all. We are also continually aware of the great sacrifices that veterans have made – they cannot be allowed to suffer any disadvantage as a result of their service. This report highlights the challenges and where improvements can be made, and we will continue to review the findings as part of our work to ensure everyone in Scotland has a home that meets their needs.”

Kevin Gray, CEO of Veterans Housing Scotland and Chair of the Veterans Scotland Housing Group, said: 

“Working with committed colleagues in the veterans community, charity sector and people with lived experience of homelessness willing to devote time and energy to produce a pathway that will prevent homelessness has been incredible, thank you to all those involved.

“Nobody should have to face homelessness and this report supports the overall aim of reducing and preventing homelessness for veterans in Scotland. It should be looked upon as a credible tool to support people who have served their country, moved on and require a settled home. Our aim must be to provide affordable and appropriate housing that allows military veterans and their families to lead active, dignified and positive lives when their service comes to an end, while remaining connected to support organisations throughout Scotland and networks of people with similar experiences.”

The 24 Recommendations are grouped around seven themes:

  • appropriate timely information
  • complexity of the housing system
  • delayed transition effects – sustaining a tenancy
  • coordination and awareness of veterans’ issues
  • specific policy barriers
  • equalities
  • making sure the Pathway is implemented.

With one day of military service sufficient for someone to be classed as a veteran and diversity within the military increasing, the range of experiences and needs people have moving back into civilian life is recognised. Considering disability, equality, age, ethnicity and other characteristics a one-size-fits-all approach is no longer an option. The team preparing the report spoke to veterans, people with experience of homelessness and professionals providing support. The finished document adds to existing evidence as well as contributing fresh perspective on what is needed to ensure everyone leaving the Services receives the type of support they need as quickly as possible.

Christmas comes early for Gorbals & Pollok communities with £200,000 Lottery ‘win’

Grassroots community organisations in the Gorbals and Pollok areas of Glasgow have received £200,000 from Homeless Network Scotland thanks to a National Lottery Community Fund project which is designed to prevent homelessness in communities in Glasgow. The decision about what organisations received the funding was made by a panel of local people in each community.

The ‘Staying In’ project is funded by The National Lottery Community Fund, with Homeless Network Scotland and partners Unity and SCDC, joining local people and organisations on a panel to allocate funding based on innovative ideas and solutions to prevent homelessness where it starts – in communities – using a ‘place based’ model.

A place-based approach goes local, recognising that within a community there are existing resources, skills and a willingness to solve the issues experienced by people who live there.

Diaspora African Women Support Network (DAWSUN) received £34,800 to support vulnerable families and individuals at risk of becoming homeless. The drop in at the Adelphi Centre in Gorbals will be open twice a week for service users and will be a community-based early intervention program to help individuals who are at-risk of becoming homeless.

Dr Chioma Nwafur, Executive Director, Diaspora African Women Support Network (DAWSUN), said: “The ‘Staying In’ Gorbals funding has allowed us to provide wrap-around support for Ethnic minority families at risk of homelessness before they present as homeless. Our homelessness intervention hub is open on Thursdays and Fridays. The majority of families are asylum seekers, refugees and ethnic minorities who speak very little English, struggling with the challenges of overcrowding, squatting, low income and troubles with neighbours. The funding meant that DAWSUN could assign them individual caseworkers and teach English.”

SWAMP in Pollok is a Community Development Trust and charity, using training, outreach, film, music, digital technologies, gardening and the creative arts to bring about change. They received £45,000 from the fund.

Andy Peline from SWAMP said: “As a community-led development trust we understand our community and are well placed to address many of the issues within it. However, the hardest part is securing the resources to tackle local priorities. Thanks to the support of the National Lottery Community Fund, we will be in a better position to create local employment opportunities and directly address the causes of homelessness within our community. We plan to test a wraparound service that will not only remove the threat of eviction but will also support people to manage their tenancies in the future.”

Preventing homelessness is made easier by circumstances such as access to adequate income or some savings, positive relationships, social networks and support or advice, advocacy and information about available services. The ‘Staying In’ programme is about helping people to stay in their area if they are at risk of homelessness.

John Edmiston, Area Housing Manager with New Gorbals Housing Association, which received £40,000 funding, said: “This fund is to target and support people who might be at risk of homelessness or who have come from homelessness. For people who have that experience one of the biggest problems in a new flat is the lack of essential items and utilities everybody needs to set up and maintain a comfortable home.

“We’ll provide essential home items such as flooring, seating, beds, bedding, microwaves and window blinds as well as support with the first month’s food shop and initial gas and electricity payment. Thanks to this Lottery funding we have been able to develop our idea to help new tenants at risk of, or who have experienced, homelessness to remain in the local Gorbals community or settle in here.”

The National Lottery Community Fund’s Scotland Chair, Kate Still, said: “When we announced this package of funding back in June 2019, we hoped that it would support a wider change across the sector and support organisations to work more collaboratively to address the issue of homelessness in Glasgow.  I am delighted that, some two and a half years later, the first awards are being announced from the Community Trailblazers programme and that National Lottery funding will have such a lasting and positive impact.”

David Ramsay, Change Lead at Homeless Network Scotland, helped to facilitate the scheme and also grew up in Pollok. David said: “The best way to end homelessness is to stop it happening in the first place. This was close to my heart because of my ties to the area, I have seen so many situations where people had to move away from family networks and friends because of homelessness. We must help people stay in their communities where the right support is available.”

Scottish Government Budget 2022-23

The Scottish Government’s Budget for 2022 to 2023 sets out the direct spend on homelessness; £10 million is being made available from the Ending Homelessness Together fund including additional funding for rapid rehousing transition plans. The £23.5 million homelessness support fund to local authorities is being maintained. More detail on the homelessness and housing content below.

  • The £10 million being made available from the Ending Homelessness Together fund is part of the overall investment of £100 million between 2018-19 and 2025-26.  The 2022-23 allocation for homelessness includes further funding for rapid rehousing transition plans, with a key focus on supporting delivery of the national Housing First approach.
  • Scottish Government remain committed to delivering 110,000 affordable homes, 70% for social rent, by 2032.  Total investment in the Affordable Housing Supply Programme is maintained at 2021-22 levels at £831 million.
  • Rented sector reform work will be kick-started with a £2.75 million investment to progress the Rented Sector Strategy, with a focus on quality, affordability and fairness in private and social rent.
  • A further £80 million is being made available for discretionary housing payments to help people meet housing costs and mitigate the bedroom tax in full.

Other relevant announcements

  • Chapter 1 sets out the spending priorities with a focus on tackling inequalities – some of the key points are noted here: 
    • Investing £197 million in the Scottish Child Payment – doubling it to £20 per week from April 2022 and expanding eligibility to children aged 6-15 from December 2022. 
    • A new public sector pay policy underlines that national mission to tackle poverty by introducing a public sector wage floor of £10.50 per hour from April 2022, with additional funding for Local Government to ensure this applies to adult social care workers in commissioned services.
    • The Protecting the Scottish Welfare Fund with £41 million. 
    • Scottish Government has allocated the 2022-23 budget using a human rights-based approach, which means work continues on the new multi-treaty Human Rights Bill, to be introduced this parliamentary term incorporating the right to adequate housing.

Housing First Scotland – the help!

Housing First Connect, Know-how, Check-up and Academy. Find out more here about the range of support that is available for everyone involved in branching out Housing First across Scotland.

Housing First Scotland – the help [click video to play]

Housing First Scotland – the help [pdf click image to download]

Webinar for Local Authorities 25 November 2021 [click image to download slides]

Branching Out National Framework – [click image to load]

Webinar launches Scotland’s new national Housing First ‘Check Up’

An online event for local authorities and partners on Thursday 25 November will set out plans for a new ‘Check Up’ process that will support the rollout of Housing First in Scotland. Activity will be co-ordinated by a nationwide policy and practice network supported by a strategic partnership between Homeless Network Scotland and the Scottish Government.

Housing First provides ordinary, settled housing as a first response for people whose homelessness is made harder by experiences such as trauma, addiction and mental ill health.Scotland is the first part of the UK to move ahead with a national rollout, with local authorities at the spearhead of this transformation.

Branching Out, The National Framework for organisations and sectors starting up or scaling up Housing First in Scotland, has been updated ahead of the webinar to reflect the latest research and data.

Maggie Brünjes, Chief Executive of Homeless Network Scotland, said:

“The Scottish Government has committed to scale up Housing First and all councils in Scotland have local plans on how Housing First will be implemented in their area.

“However, there’s doing something and there’s doing the right thing, at the right time and in the right place. We know that local authorities are naturally reflective and already committed to the Housing First approach. The new annual check-up process builds on this strong foundation with additional support and advice, safeguarding the elements that make Housing First work.”

Updates to the 100-page National Framework, endorsed by the Scottish Government, SFHA, CIH and Wheatley Group among others, link into the Prevention Review Group report, Shared Spaces research into shared and supported accommodation and the Housing First Interim Evaluation Report delivered by I-SPHERE at Heriot-Watt University. The Framework is a ‘how to and why’ guide to planning, commissioning and delivering the approach locally and nationally covering community justice, housing and social care issues as well as local and national government.

Growing evidence from across Scotland and the rest of the UK supports the delivery of Housing First for specific groups in addition to the wider group of people with the sharpest experiences of homelessness. For example, the Rock Trust and Almond Housing Association have tested Housing First for young people leaving care in West Lothian and their evaluation shows that:

  • All but one young person has continued to sustain their tenancy.
  • All young people described ways in which their relationship with their Housing First worker had led to positive changes in their life.
  • Some young people reported improvements in mental health and satisfaction with life, healthy eating and exercise, and some reported fewer problems as a result of substance misuse.

The Housing First Check Up webinar for Local Authorities and Partners takes place on Thursday 25 November 2021 from 10am to 12.00pm on the MS Teams platform. The event will be hosted by Sir Andrew Cubie and Marion Gibbs, Team Leader – Homelessness, with the Scottish Government. Book a place here.