Everyone Home urges First Minister to prioritise social housing and homelessness prevention

A coalition of organisations have congratulated Scotland’s new First Minister and urged his attention on repairing the social housing budget and on protecting duties to prevent homelessness.

Thirty-five organisations have written an open letter to First Minister John Swinney MSP in this 25th year of the Scottish Parliament. The Everyone Home collective has highlighted that over the last 25 years Scottish administrations have made giant leaps towards ending homelessness and have created world-class legislation. That when progress stalled, the Scottish Government recalibrated to get us back on track. And when the pandemic threatened to cause a homelessness catastrophe, the Scottish Government took decisive action. 

But now we find ourselves going backwards again – and so this must be a moment to reset.

All in for Glasgow: Register to Participate

Service providers invited to help design support services for people affected by the housing and cost-of-living crisis in Glasgow.

Following an information event held on 23 February 2024, third and independent sector organisations are being invited to co-design best services to support people affected by the housing and cost-of-living crisis in Glasgow.

Homeless Network Scotland has been appointed by Glasgow City Health and Social Care Partnership to facilitate and support this process ahead of a planned procurement exercise later this year. Both organisations are committed to acting together with purpose, pace, openness and to co-design.

In turn, they are inviting third and independent sector organisations to participate in a service design approach that:

  • Understands the challenge and uses best evidence of what works.
  • Centres what is best for people using services and takes a ‘whole-person’ approach.
  • Builds from strengths, skills and assets we already have to hand.
  • Commits to developing and demonstrating equality competence.
  • Remains faithful to the purpose and collaborates constructively to achieve it.

If you would like to be part of the service design process using this approach, then please register your main contact within your organisation by Friday 15 March 2024. 

You can register to participate by clicking this link here and sharing your contact details.

2024: Something doesn’t add up…

Maggie Brünjes, chief executive of Homeless Network Scotland, on the long-term impacts of short-term decisions on housing. And what needs to happen now to make 2024 count.

Imagine there was enough decent and affordable housing for everyone in Scotland in the places we want to build and live our lives.

What would happen?

Firstly, we would see radical improvements in Scotland’s physical and mental health.

It is widely understood that our health is shaped by factors that go well beyond the heredity and genetic cards we were dealt or even how we access and experience health and social care services. Housing is one of the most influential factors making us more or less healthy – as individuals and across whole communities and populations.

Secondly, poverty and inequality in Scotland would shrink.

More equal societies do better on almost every measure that matters. But inequality persists in Scotland, including within the housing system. People are systematically disadvantaged due to factors including our income, our race, our gender, our age, and our health. Even our orientation, how we identify and express ourselves, exposes people to a greater risk of inadequate housing and homelessness.

But impactful housing and fiscal policy, especially at the supply side, would redress this. It has already been shown that lower social rents and a more responsive supply of social homes create lower rates of poverty in Scotland. There is also fresh appetite for policy that tackles inequalities in housing wealth – not just the different advantages between renting and home ownership, but the difference between owning one and owning multiple homes.

When housing is affordable and available, there are also wider positive benefits for the local economy, for employment growth and job retention. Keeping housing supply affordable is critically dependent on a pipeline of capacity and resource that keeps pace with the demand for it.

Thirdly, homelessness as we know it would end.

Homelessness is not only a housing issue, but it’s always a housing issue. There is simply no route to ending homelessness in Scotland that doesn’t include more social and affordable housing. The homelessness sector has modernised over recent decades and now embraces a culture that most of us, with the right support if we need it, can build and live our lives in an ordinary home in an ordinary community.

With a supply of affordable housing in harmony with demand, we would see the key pillars of Scotland’s progressive homelessness policy implemented with greater ease – prevention, cutting the strings to our over-reliance on unsuitable, expensive and temporary accommodation, ensuring childhoods are spent in settled not temporary homes, scaling up Housing First for those at the hardest edge – and ensuring people seeking sanctuary or to settle in Scotland have a safe place to stay at all times.

With enough decent and affordable housing, Scotland would healthier, happier, fairer and more economically secure.

Nice start to the year, isn’t it?

But instead, we’re sweeping up the glass of Scottish Government’s December budget which unveiled a £200m cut to affordable housing – jeopardising housing targets and exposing the progress made towards ending homelessness and rough sleeping to unnecessary risk.

And so say all of us. Over the last year, coordinated representation, evidence and opinion across all these points and more have been made by:

  • Local authorities, individually and through the leadership structures of ALACHO and SOLACE.
  • The housing sector, including through SFHA, CIH Scotland and GWSF.
  • The home building industry, including through Homes for Scotland.
  • The homelessness and refugee sectors, including through the Everyone Home collective and the relentless campaigning of Shelter Scotland.
  • Regulators and auditors, including the Scottish Housing Regulator, the Accounts Commission and Auditor General.
  • Platforms for people directly affected, including All in For Change and tenants’ organisations.
  • The anti-poverty sector, including the Poverty Alliance and Child Poverty Action Group.
  • The academic and knowledge sector, including I-SPHERE at Heriot-Watt University and the Joseph Rowntree Foundation.

It doesn’t add up.

When the case is presented by so many informed stakeholders. When the benefits of more and better homes are so fundamental and self-evident. And when the consequence of not providing it is so devastating to people’s lives – then the questions and reactions will inevitably become more complex and more pressured in 2024. If government doesn’t have enough capacity or resources to meet the demand for social and affordable housing in Scotland – who does? Where does that take us, and what happens next?

At Homeless Network Scotland’s annual conference in October, and at our post-budget meeting in December, Housing Minister Paul McLennan outlined the Scottish Government strategy to attract private finance into Scotland’s housing system. The Minister has been proactive about securing investment to meet Scotland’s housing need since he took up office in March, and we support his commitment to a model and method that retains investor confidence while ensuring protections for people who rent their home.

The problem of course now is that any new investment needs to first plug a shortfall before it can progress us further than we already were.

Making it count.

This new environment for housing in 2024 will compel all parts of the housing and homelessness sector to put forward priorities and options to mitigate the worst impacts of a drastically reduced housing budget for the year ahead. Policy and budget decisions don’t add up, but we still need to make it count – this is our starting point:

  • Stop the big freeze. The UK Government’s capital budget being frozen to March 2028 means close to a 10% real terms cut over 5 years for infrastructure projects in Scotland, including housing. Reversing or tempering this forecast would reinstate some of the lost capital budget – and is not beyond possibility.
  • Prevent the pile up. The Scottish Government cut the housing budget beyond the inflationary freeze sent by Westminster. Reversing or tempering this decision – and redressing the impact in next year’s budget, will increase confidence and support.
  • Think big on social investment. There are a small number of third sector organisations who have already shown leadership and innovation in how social investment, often in the form of low-cost repayable loans, can be used to create housing options. A group of us have come together to launch a new commission in 2024 that will build and present a business case for a strategic and national approach.
  • Focus on distribution. More capacity and levers for initiatives focused on empty homes and in reducing housing wealth inequality. The UK Collaborative Centre for Housing Evidence have already described policy reform potential, along with the twin constraints of devolved policy and reformability – the overall appetite for wealth reform across society.
  • Measure what matters. More than ever, we need to measure the impact of housing policy and spend. Last month, a coalition of experts called on local and national government to adopt a groundbreaking new tool, the Ending Homelessness Together Monitor. The carefully selected set of indicators are intended to demonstrate the interplay between what causes homelessness, the level of resources and tools needed to prevent and alleviate it and the adequacy of the system of services that help people through it.
  • Use a route map. To navigate an increasingly complex terrain, we need a clear route-map between the commitments in Housing to 2040 and the Ending Homelessness Together Plan and the aspirational outcomes in the new Ending Homelessness Together Monitor. This will provide the missing mechanism to sequence, cost, target and time the range of actions now needed.

Scottish Government commissions monitor on homelessness

  • Ending Homelessness Together Monitor created to chart impact of national policy
  • Data demonstrates how mix of poverty, inequality and lack of affordable housing drives homelessness
  • Framework will use lived experience to gauge progress towards people-centred systems

A coalition of experts has called on local and national government to adopt a groundbreaking new tool created to measure progress being made towards ending homelessness in Scotland.

The Ending Homelessness Together Monitor is designed to report on indicators that reflect the entwined and predictable causes of homelessness including poverty, inequality, labour markets and welfare levels as well as housing supply and affordability.

A report from the Measuring Impact Task and Finish Group, appointed by Scottish Government and COSLA, states that this evidence will show how wider factors drive homelessness and help decision makers to allocate the right resources and services to maintain progress towards ending it.

But the report published today said the experiences of people and families must also be part of the bigger picture alongside a suite of robust data and evidence.

Insight into the reality of services from All in For Change, a platform for people with lived experience of homelessness, defined factors that matter on the ground including how people were treated and the quality of services they used, while priorities for keyworkers included pay and caseload levels. These inputs will enable the monitor to measure progress towards more person-led services.

New data sets will also allow the monitor to show the impact of the new prevention duties on public sector bodies, due to be written into law in the Scottish Government’s forthcoming Housing Bill.

The new framework has been developed to measure progress towards commitments in the Scottish Government and COSLA joint Ending Homelessness Together Plan. It will use and improve existing housing and homelessness indicators, while also plugging data gaps.

Strategic outcomes of the monitor include providing sufficient social and affordable homes; fewer households and children in poverty; decreasing homelessness; equality in housing outcomes; more choice and control for people in services and a more equipped and enabled workforce.

The key recommendation in the Measuring Impact Task and Finish Group’s final report is that the Scottish Government, COSLA and local partners adopt the monitor.

Housing Minister Paul McLennan said: “I am very grateful to the co-chairs, Maggie Brünjes and Gavin Smith, and to the other members of the group for the time and consideration they gave to this particular challenge.

“We want to get better at measuring progress towards ending homelessness in Scotland and understand how our interventions are helping people. We also want to maximise the impact of every pound spent on preventing and ending homelessness. We will consider the group’s report and recommendations very carefully and respond in due course.”

Maggie Brünjes, chief executive of Homeless Network Scotland and co-chair of the group, said: “The Ending Homelessness Together Monitor will enable us to better measure, across a carefully selected set of indicators, whether we are getting closer to ending homelessness in Scotland.

“This has been an important collaboration across academia, policy, government and the third sector. Gathering knowledge of what matters on the ground to people is vital, and the input of All in For Change will help to ensure that we put people at the heart of measuring progress.”

Group co-chair Gavin Smith, chair of the Chartered Institute of Housing Scotland and service manager at Fife Council, said: “The wider structural causes of homelessness clearly demonstrate that the housing and homelessness sectors do not hold all the levers needed to end homelessness.

“It follows that this framework shows how complex factors create unique experiences of homelessness. The monitor will provide robust evidence of policy impact and progress, helping decision makers to direct resources and tools in a targeted way, so we strongly recommend that it is adopted next year.”

The monitor and report have been submitted formally to the Scottish Government and will go out to the wider public sector for consultation on implementation early 2024.

The group’s report and monitor are available here.

There may be trouble ahead, so let’s face the music

Homeless Network Scotland, in partnership with Wheatley Group, are proud to present Scotland’s Annual Homelessness Conference and the release today of a packed programme and the first look at a line-up of pitch perfect speakers. Fine-Tuned: striking the right chord on homelessness is taking place on Tuesday 31 October 2023 at Perth Concert Hall, the very heart of a local authority area achieving breakthrough results on homelessness.

It is difficult to remember a time when global, UK and national events have aligned so acutely and with so much pressure on our local housing and homelessness systems in Scotland. The effects are already being felt by those who work or live with the challenges and who are now being relied upon to unlock solutions to unprecedented challenges. Fine-tuned is the opportunity to explore what we all need to fine-tune partnerships, improvise solutions and scale up what works. And to find together points of hope, optimism and inspiration amid the troubles ahead.

The day is warming up to strike the right chord, with guest contributors including:

Paul McLennan MSP Housing Minister

Thomas Glen Chief Executive, Perth & Kinross Council

Jen Ang Director of Development, Just Right Scotland

Maff Potts Director of Association, Camerados

Vonnie Sandlan Social Media Influencer

Dr Beth Watts Senior Research Fellow, I-SPHERE

Jeremy Wylie Associate, Homeless Network Scotland

And (… you may have guessed) some bursts of musical inspiration on the day too. Delegates will be played out by Clanadonia, Scotland’s legendary drum and pipe band.

Being human – and being brave. The conference will explore these two overarching themes across the day, recognising that the times we are living in call on us to nurture relationships, build from strengths and knowledge and grasp the nettle on the big questions. That it’s ok to make mistakes, it’s giving up that’s the real risk to progress. The day will include soloists, sofa sessions, roundtable discussions – and four specialist breakout sessions on immigration, women and homelessness, rapid rehousing and growth mindset. 

Maggie Brunjes, Homeless Network Scotland’s chief executive said:

“This is an extraordinarily pressured and committed sector, and the annual conference offers some time out and the opportunity to connect, draw inspiration and share learning. If you think the day’s themes are interesting and relevant to you, we look forward to seeing you there.”

“If you’re not sure that preventing and tackling homelessness is relevant to your role, then book your place today and let the conference convince you of the need to step outside our different sectors to solve a highly preventable problem in Scotland.”

And from the event partner:

“Wheatley Group is delighted to support Homeless Network Scotland’s Annual Homelessness Conference. As Scotland’s largest housing, care, and property-management group, our mission is ‘Making Homes and Lives Better’ for our 210,000 customers in 19 local authority areas across Scotland.

“As we find ourselves amid a cost-of-living crisis, times are undoubtedly challenging for tenants across the country. With ever-increasing pressure on local housing systems, Wheatley has a key role to play in working with public and private partners to tackle homelessness and help people into their own home.“

So, let’s face the music! Bookings are now open for Scotland’s annual homelessness conference – and we can’t wait to welcome you.

To view the full programme and book your place, please visit Homeless Network Scotland’s online conference page here.