The Very Best of Intentions: when does good do harm? 

Homeless Network Scotland are launching a conversation series to cast some light on why good intentions are not enough when responding to big social challenges like poverty, social isolation and homelessness. And why, without the right knowledge and partnerships, good intentions can even cause harm.   

The conversation series will launch at an online event on 6 December 2022 and continue through 2023, where we will be exploring questions such as: 

  • Why is all ‘charity’ or voluntary action portrayed as positive, even those with low-bar standards? 
  • What happens when we centre the motivations of ‘givers’ over the impact on people receiving? 
  • Why do people use foodbanks, on-street soup kitchens or ask passers-by for money?  What are the alternatives?
  • What do politicians do that helps – and hinders?
  • How can we help voluntary action to be pioneering and trailblazing, rather than resurrecting old practices? 

We will look back at the history and the lessons we have learned together, reviewing evidence and experiences of what works and what matters. And we’ll be inviting contributions from those closest to the challenge, with lived experience and expertise who will challenge us and encourage us in the right direction. 

Don’t miss the first of this series with conversation starters including from Sarah Johnson, ISPHERE at Heriot-Watt University. We are looking forward to seeing you at The Very Best of Intentions on 6 December 10-12. Book here. 

Staying In

All homelessness starts in a community. But not all communities are at equal risk. Homeless Network Scotland wanted to test a new approach to tackle the uneven distribution of homelessness risk, at the heart of the places most affected by it. We set about to test what happens when ‘subject experts’ collaborate with ‘local experts’ and ‘lived experience’ experts to combine knowledge, insight and problem solving at a local level. And, with thanks to the National Lottery Community fund, to understand how local investment would be targeted too. David Ramsay from Homeless Network Scotland blogs about what was designed and discovered.

Wawl, can’t believe that’s been 3 years since we launched this project. It’s been an amazing and definitively eventful time, as Covid struck just as we got the project up and running, which meant there was a delay to the project.

So let’s get back to where it all began (I think there is a song in that ).

As an organisation we have been working in local communities across Scotland promoting a placed based approach to preventing homelessness at a local level.

A placed based approach embraces a whole community and the assets that already exist in that area, so you’re right “this is not rocket science and isn’t new.” But what is new is the focus on homelessness prevention.

One question I always ask myself? Is using the language of homelessness prevention a barrier for other services out with housing to get involved in trying to protect people’s homes? If you think so, what language should we all adopt?

Homeless Network Scotland and others had a shared understanding that some of the answers to protecting people’s homes and tackling housing issues are in the community themselves, and each community is different so may need a slightly different approach. Having the flexibility to deal with the slightly changing priorities of each community is one of the main benefits to a place-based approach as the usual response is either, a local authority or national strategy.

Thankfully the National Lottery Community Fund also had the same vision as us and wanted to try and test new ways which would change culture and practice within a local setting and we were able to secure funding to test our ideas across 2 different areas in Glasgow.

We worked in partnership with Unity and Scottish Community Development Centre (SCDC) to deliver a new test-of-change in Greater Pollok and Gorbals which are both in the south of Glasgow. As this was the first time in Scotland that anyone had piloted a test-of-change focusing on prevention, I’m sure you can imagine I was full of excitement and slightly nervous as I wanted this to be a success.

Our approach was simple and not hard to replicate. First thing we did was create a panel of local people who either lived or worked in the area and who had a passion for supporting the local community. once you have a group of people who have the same objectives and goals it makes things so much easier.

Also, another valuable contribution was from the partners involved as well. This was crucial in moving the project forward at the right time. No one has all the answers (though my partner may disagree) the knowledge and expertise from Unity and SCDC really gave the approach we adopted so much more meaning. I also learned so much more about working with people which I’ll take forward onto the next project.

The Staying In project funded 6 organisations across both areas, this included housing associations, anchor organisations and small charities. The range of services varied which was a benefit to the local community. The value to the people who engaged with the organisations was simply the right support was on offer at the right time. I would like to see more people have this choice and control over who they engage with and not a one size fits all local authority response.

We want this to be rolled out across other areas, so it’ll be important that the right amount of time and support is allocated to smaller charities and organisations to fully get behind this approach. Its important everyone is involved throughout each stage of this process and buy in comes from health, criminal justice, local authorities, and Scottish Government. Everyone has a part to play in their local community and let’s do more of what working and keep people Staying In their local area if that is what they want.

The most important thing is that this programme achieved exciting things. We believe that less applications for help with homelessness were made to the local authority from both communities. We also discovered 6 key themes from this programme that we believe could be of interest to other place-based initiatives or inform local responses to homelessness – or could merit further research or development. And we have pointed to 8 key considerations for local partners.

Many thanks to everyone who was involved in this project and let’s hope this model can be replicated and rolled out across Scotland soon.

David

Read the full evaluation here.

Programme for Government 2022-2023

The new Programme for Government for 2022-2023 A Stronger & More Resilient Scotland was published on 6 September, setting out Scottish Government actions for this coming year. Many of this year’s commitments are focused on government’s response to the cost-of-living crisis, including increased protections for tenants and longer-term plans to make rents more affordable.

The aim of following measures is to support people struggling with the increased costs to food and fuel to be able to stay in their home. This would also help people maintain social connections, avoid worsening mental health issues, keep their jobs and avoid housing crises such as homelessness: 

  • A rent freeze, effective from 6 Sept, will be introduced in a new emergency Housing Bill. The new legislation will also impose a temporary ban on evictions, until at least March 2023. These measures are for tenants in both the private rented sector and the social rented sector. 
     
  • A new campaign will be launched to raise tenants’ awareness of their rights to ensure they can access the support and assistance they need. 
     
  • A ‘one-stop-shop’ website will be introduced to provide people with information on the range of benefits and support available to them through the current crisis. 
     
  •  A new Housing Bill will be introduced by the end of this parliamentary year to begin to deliver the actions of the New Deal for Tenants and some other aspects of Housing to 2040 – these are yet to be confirmed. 

Other measures to help people cope with increased costs include:

  • The Fuel Insecurity Fund doubled to £20 million to help households at risk of self-disconnection.
      
  • The Scottish Child Payment will increase to £25 for each eligible child from 14 November, when the payment will also open up to all under 16-year-olds. 
     
  •  Rail fares will also be frozen. 

These practical steps to prevent more people becoming homeless as a result of the increased costs we are facing is very welcome. Changes to legislation are a vital foundation to this action, along with people knowing their rights. As we know from the way that other housing legislation is implemented across Scotland, implementation including enforcement measures around the new law will be key. 

Reaction to the announcements
Housing Associations are extremely worried about the rent freeze meaning they will have insufficient funds for upgrading existing property and building new homes.
Housing sector reacts to Programme for Government rent freeze
Scottish Housing News 7.9.22

Scottish Association of Landlords have been ‘inundated’ by private sector landlords saying they will remove their properties from the housing market, which could lead to more tenants being made homeless. Concerns have been raised about interest rates leading to increases in mortgage payments (especially buy-to-let mortgages) which will no longer be covered by rent.
Scottish landlords warn of severe problems if ‘rent freeze’ goes ahead
Landlord Zone 6.9.22

Living Rent strongly welcome the rent freeze
Scotland introduces rent freeze and eviction ban to protect tenants from cost of living crisis
Big Issue 6.9.22

Blog: MyBnk Youth Homelessness Prevention

As The Money House project expands to Glasgow, MyBnk Scotland Partnerships Manager Gemma Orr talks youth homelessness in the city and how money management skills can help.

MyBnk is a charity that delivers expert-led financial education programmes to 5-25 year olds in UK schools and youth organisations – directly, virtually and online. Together with young people, we have created innovative, high impact and high energy workshops that bring money to life. 

In the midst of a homelessness and cost of living crisis, research tells us one in three care leavers currently lose their first home and 83% of evictions are caused by rent arrears. MyBnk’s Money House Project works to tackle youth homelessness through developing money management skills, with only 1% of Money House graduates ever being evicted. Following the success of four award-winning projects in London, The Money House has now expanded to Glasgow’s Hope Street. 

The Money House  

The Money House is an award-winning financial education service for 16 to 25-year-olds on the pathway to social housing – specifically targeting young adults in challenging circumstances, such as those leaving care. Over a week, a trained expert in a simulated flat environment in Glasgow, teaches participants everything they need to know to keep their tenancy. It focuses on survival money management skills, understanding systems, planning for the future and reducing financial exclusion. Using games and activities, it brings money to life, clears up misconceptions and confronts bad habits and worries like debt. Courses are available both online via Zoom and in-person. 

Bringing The Money House to Glasgow 

The decision to expand this project into Glasgow was driven by the clear need in the city. In 2019-20 there were 6054 homeless applications in Glasgow, and a further 2557 households were in temporary accommodation. In Scotland more generally, 8525 youth homeless applications were made last year, around 24% of children are living in poverty and 70% of young Scots were concerned about their financial situation during the pandemic. 

Each individual facing homelessness has their own story, but the heart of the programme has stayed the same – teaching young people how to live independently and lower the risk of homelessness through prevention rather than cure. Each person facing homelessness has their own story, but the heart of the programme has stayed the same – preparing 16–25-year-olds for independence and tackling homelessness through targeted prevention, rather than waiting until young people reach crisis point. 

The challenges facing young people in Glasgow will be different to those in London, and the financial landscape certainly differs too: benefits, housing, jobs, entitlements and financial exclusion all require local knowledge. MyBnk Scotland have been delivering money workshops in schools and youth organisations since 2019 and our Glasgow-based team have local knowledge and expert training to help them bring content to life for young people in Scotland. 

Getting involved 

The Money House targets young adults about to move into social housing. Those coming on the course can be referred by a range of stakeholders, including homelessness and young adult services within councils and housing associations and charity partners such as Barnardo’s. 

If you work with young people who would benefit from attending a course or want to find out more at one of our open days, please contact TMHScotland@mybnk.org. For any questions, please contact Gemma.Orr@mybnk.org

The Money House Glasgow is funded by JP Morgan, SGN and The Quilter Foundation. 

Blog: David Kidd – diverse experiences with equal value

David Kidd is an improvement lead with Homeless Network Scotland and a member of the Glasgow Alliance to End Homelessness’ management team. Here he provides an update on the work being prioritised to ensure that people with diverse and direct experiences of homelessness have an equal decision making role in the Alliance.

The self-styled Glasgow Homelessness Involvement & Feedback Team – or GHIFT for short – are a collective of people with experiences of homelessness in Glasgow who work to represent the views and experiences of others experiencing homelessness in the city. 

When GHIFT assembled back in 2015, we set out with a goal in mind: to create a platform for people with experiences of homelessness to have an equal say in decisions and actions being taken to reduce and ultimately end homelessness in Glasgow. At the time that seemed like quite a radical idea but as the years passed, and trust was built, progress towards this goal got faster and for the last couple of years GHIFT have been doing exactly we set out to do – jointly making decisions about how homelessness services in Glasgow should work. 

For Homeless Network Scotland, this is a hugely welcome progression of our conviction that people have the right to have their opinions and perspectives heard and our commitment to creating the structures to enable that to be heard and acted on.

In Glasgow, the vehicle for this parity in decision making is called the Glasgow Alliance to End Homelessness. For anyone that doesn’t know, it is a ten-year partnership founded on unanimous decision making and an ethos of ‘Best for People’. The Alliance is between ten organisations including the HSCP, third and independent sector organisations and GHIFT. Homeless Network Scotland is part of the Alliance as a knowledge-based partner, and to centre and support the value of lived experience. The Alliance have overall responsibility for planning, delivery and transformation of services and support for those at risk of or experiencing homelessness in Glasgow with the aim of ending homelessness in Glasgow by 2030. 

It has been a couple of years now since the ink dried on the Alliance Agreement and it would be fair to say that a lot has happened during that time. 

Despite going into lockdown less than 1 month after the Alliance contract was awarded, GHIFT and the Alliance have been working hard to set up the Alliance structures, documentation, working groups, ways of working and so much more… And to begin the process of transforming the way that homelessness services in the city are delivered.  

None of this can happen in isolation though. To do it properly will need lots of support and the involvement of as many people as possible – from those using services and the services supporting them to the citizens of Glasgow themselves. Everyone has a part to play in ending homelessness. 

With that in mind, the next phase of the Alliance’s work involves working with those in the homelessness sector and beyond to develop a strategy that will drive the Alliance’s approach, direction and priorities over the coming 3 years.  As part of this, GHIFT will be running focus groups with people using homelessness services to ensure that the new strategy is directly influenced by what’s important to them. Look out for more details of these coming soon.

There are also a range of other events and activities that will inform the development of the Alliance strategy: 

  • For those working on the front lines of services within homelessness and related sectors there are Frontline Forum sessions happening on 28 September (online) and on the 5 October (in-person). You can read about GHIFT and Alliance Leadership Team member Mark’s experiences of attending previous Frontline Forums here.
  • For anyone else who has an interest in ending homelessness there are Alliance exCHANGE events happening on 22 September (in-person) and the 27 September (online). 
  • For anyone who is unable to attend these or who would like more details on how to get involved in shaping the strategy you can visit the Glasgow Alliance to End Homelessness website by clicking here

This is just the beginning though. To end homelessness will need everyone’s help and if you’ve got experience of homelessness in Glasgow and a determination for change then GHIFT needs your help too! We’ll be recruiting again soon, so to find out more about GHIFT or to add your name to our recruitment contact list – contact me at David@homelessnetwork.scot or phone 0141 420 7272./