Calls to build and be bold strike a chord at #FineTuned 

Hundreds of delegates connected at Scotland’s annual homelessness conference to share and discuss ideas on how to reverse rising homelessness – from being braver and more human together to making real the solutions we know will work. 

Fine Tuned: striking the right chord on homelessness was held in the same week as the scale of the problems the sector faces were laid bare by Edinburgh’s declaration of a housing emergency. 

But the mood in Perth Concert Hall was one of positivity and collaboration in the face of adversity – with the urgent need to build more homes, mitigate Westminster immigration policy, support cash-strapped local authorities and turn progressive Scottish legislation into action the key takeaways. 

Frontline workers, policy experts, local authority chiefs and people with experience of homelessness heard from event sponsor Wheatley Group, Perth & Kinross Council – who are achieving groundbreaking results on homelessness – and Housing Minister Paul McLennan. 

Housing Minister Paul McLennan

More homes and more money

In his keynote address the minister emphasised the Scottish Government’s priority to secure new investment in housing, reduce numbers in temporary accommodation, address rural challenges, the importance of the upcoming prevention duties – and the sector’s need for more money.

Taking questions from the floor on the new Ministerial Oversight Group on homelessness, he was pressed on the need for a joined-up approach to homelessness through the new National Care Service and the housing and budget pressures local authorities face.

In keeping with the event’s musical theme, Homeless Network Scotland chief executive Maggie Brünjes boiled down the five ‘key changes’ we need to take to combat homelessness: build more homes, reduce poverty and inequality, challenge UK Government policy, modernise homeless services and ensure a No Wrong Door approach. With the conference supporting her calls for a route-map to sequence, cost, target and time each of the actions in the Ending Homelessness Together Plan.

Humanity, bravery, music – and biscuits

Buzzing sofa sessions posed questions on how we can be more human and braver in all we do, with wide-ranging conversations covering the personal and the political, organisational and system angles – fuelled by a “favourite biscuit” icebreaker from host Maff Potts.

Our sofa panel considered the vulnerability of being human and the power of deep connection, and the hall was asked to hold a person facing homelessness in their thoughts as Maff played Nina Simone’s I Wish I Knew How it Would Feel to be Free on the piano – a profound shared moment.

After lunch, the session on bravery focused on changing systems by making services more joined-up and person-centred, pushing back on hostile UK Government immigration policy, continuing to bang the same drum on homelessness, and even turning up for work each day despite the challenges.

What’s working to help hardest hit

Humanity and bravery were core to breakout sessions that delved into the many efforts underway across the country to support people facing some of the hardest adversity.

Cyrenians and Scottish Women’s Aid outlined the progress of the Everyone’s WISH initiative, which harnesses the resources of the private sector to fund homes for women who have experienced domestic abuse – the largest cause of women’s homelessness in Scotland.

The Fair Way Scotland session heard from Heriot-Watt’s I-SPHERE institute about the first-year impact and future priorities of the partnership, which aims to prevent homelessness and destitution ​among people denied access to state support because of their immigration status.

A workshop on Rapid Rehousing heard about the transformational success of Perth & Kinross Council in reducing the number of people in temporary accommodation through flipping, buybacks and a Housing First approach, as well as challenges including the cost-of-living crisis.

And CATH Perth set out their achievements in employing Growth Mindset theory to help people facing barriers including homelessness and mental health through their Positive Pathways programme.

Brilliant exhibitors – and a rousing finale 

Throughout the day delegates visited exhibitions in the hall’s sunny foyer from Dogs Trust, Scottish Pantry Network, Cyrenians, Scottish Veterans Residences, MyBNK, Right There, Say WOMEN, Social Security Scotland and Grace Chocolates – who provided Halloween-themed table treats for the 250-strong crowd.  

And a day of open-minded enquiry and inspiration ended fittingly with the energising sound of drum and pipe band Clanadonia bringing down the curtain.  

Thank you to all the guests who made #FineTuned a success this year – including event sponsors Wheatley Group, Blue Triangle, Salvation Army, CATH Perth, Scottish Covid-19 Inquiry and Kingdom Housing Association. 

With thanks to all our brilliant exhibitors and sponsors

Homeless Network Scotland announces 3 new appointments 

Homeless Network Scotland has announced three key appointments ahead of its annual conference to drive its ambitious and collaboration-led mission to end homelessness. 

Ed Pybus has joined the team as Policy Advisor and Jamie Milne is the new Communications Lead, while Hazel MacIver will take up her role as Programme Advisor in November. 

They will work across five HNS flagship programmes which focus on prioritising prevention, rapid rehousing, ending rough sleeping and destitution, providing a platform for people with lived experience and driving systemic change to end homelessness. 

Formerly Policy and Parliamentary Officer at Child Poverty Action Group, Ed brings a vast policy knowledge on poverty and social security and will help to connect that with housing and homelessness policy, and through a vibrant network of policy professionals across the wider housing and homelessness network.  

Ed was co-chair of the Scottish Campaign on Rights to Social Security and a member of the Scottish Government’s Minimum Income Guarantee Steering Group.

Hazel is joining HNS from international development and humanitarian organisation Tearfund where she is currently Advocacy and Campaigns Manager. Part of the coalition responsible for influencing the Scottish Government’s pledge at COP26, Hazel was previously Head of Policy and Research for the Labour Group in the Scottish Parliament and policy advisor to leaders of the Scottish Labour Party.  

She will provide project management expertise and oversight to increase the impact of Homeless Network Scotland programmes and projects, while pursuing opportunities to support new cross-sector partnerships, alliances and collaborations. 

Jamie held communications positions at Skills Development Scotland and Circularity Scotland, having formerly worked as a journalist for 20 years on national print and digital titles including the Press Association, Reuters, The Guardian and The Scottish Sun.  

Jamie will lead HNS communications and further develop how the organisation creates opportunities for a diverse network to connect, learn and act on homelessness. 

Homeless Network Scotland Chief Executive Marggie Brünjes said: “People are everything, and as a small team making a big impact, we take great care in our recruitment at Homeless Network Scotland. We are excited to welcome Ed, Hazel and Jamie to the team and all three bring significant and varied experience to the table.  

“Ed and Hazel’s deep knowledge of policy and influencing expertise promise to support ever greater impact across our programmes, and Jamie will fine tune our messaging and engagement to mobilise wider participation across our activities.” 

Homeless Network Scotland, in partnership with Wheatley Group, will host Scotland’s annual homelessness conference at Perth Concert Hall on Tuesday, 31 October, at the heart of a local authority achieving breakthrough results on homelessness. This year’s theme is ‘Fine Tuned: Striking the Right Chord on Homelessness on Scotland’.  

Guest contributors include Housing Minister Paul McLennan and Perth & Kinross Council chief executive Thomas Glen. Topics under discussion cover rapid rehousing, the scale and nature of women’s homelessness in Scotland, and mitigating the impact of UK immigration policy – while guests will also explore the themes ‘How can we be more brave?’ and ‘How can we be more human?’. 

Hazel MacIver
Programme Advisor  

All in for Change hailed for 3 years of action and influence

People with personal and frontline experience of homelessness are influencing Scottish Government policy and inspiring organisations through their work on Homeless Network Scotland and Cyrenians’ All in for Change programme, a report into its first three years shows.

The Change Team works collaboratively with decision makers to develop homelessness policy and one of its biggest successes has been developing the ‘Ask and Act’ prevention duties proposed for public bodies, due to be brought into law.

Other significant achievements since 2019 include influencing policies around rapid rehousing, helping to end the Local Connections policy and giving evidence to MSPs as part of development of the National Care Service.

Policy workers who engaged with the Change Team reported that their unique insight into what works on the ground and impartial input had added credibility to their own work by strengthening the evidence they use to design and improve services.

They said working with Change Leads – including paid Associates with Homeless Network Scotland – helped foster culture change in their organisations, furthering a shift towards prevention and participation informed by the programme’s 4 New Directions to end homelessness.

All in for Change was also credited with overturning stereotypes of people who have experienced homelessness, and Change Leads said their experiences had helped their wider work as they felt respected and “listened to”, boosting their confidence and self-esteem.

The findings emerged in a survey and interviews with Change Leads and policy staff for the report ‘Hitting Home the Message’, an evaluation of the programme to date.

All in for Change was created to help achieve policy objectives set out in the Scottish Government-COSLA joint Ending Homelessness Together Action Plan.

Key aims of the programme, facilitated by Homeless Network Scotland, Cyrenians and Scottish Community Development Centre, are bringing about co-ordinated working between different services and ensuring support services take a person-centred approach.

Respondents to the report said more urgent change is needed to connect services and create ‘No Wrong Door’ for people – and that more support is badly needed for those in support roles.

David Ramsay, Impact Lead at Homeless Network Scotland, said: “The Change Team has demonstrated time and again the value of co-developing policy and service design with people who know what works on the ground. They can sense-check policy to guard against complacency.

“Every policy worker interviewed for the report said they would engage with the Change Team again. This speaks volumes about the power of the team to break down barriers in the policy landscape.”

The report also commends the Scottish Government’s Homelessness Unit for enabling and funding the programme and makes a series of recommendations at national, local and programme level.

These include broadening the scope of the Ending Homelessness Together Action Plan to include poverty and inequality – the overarching drivers of homelessness – and for local authorities and health and social care partnerships outside Glasgow to explore local platforms for lived experience.

Change Leads on the Prevention Commission made a significant contribution to the new Housing Bill due to become law in this parliament by coming up with the ‘Ask and Act’ recommendation, which requires relevant public bodies to ask people about their housing situation to identify issues early -and then act to support them.

The team also identified the unfairness and ineffectiveness of the now-removed Local Connections policy, which restricted access to local services to people who could prove they had a connection to the area, and helped the Scottish Government finalise new guidelines on the Unsuitable Accommodation Order.

One policy officer said: “It’s not a box ticking exercise. Every time we’re working on a new policy, the Change Team are part of that. It’s becoming embedded in a lot of our work.”

Another said of the team’s wider influence: “Engaging with the Change Team allowed me to help us understand the difference between active engagement with a particular demographic versus public engagement, which is a far more generic thing. We’ve seen organisational change as a result.”

Ambitious Scots programme to counter misery caused by UK immigration policy must now be scaled up

More than 1,200 people in Scotland received vital support in the first year of an ambitious programme to end destitution caused by UK immigration policy, a new report reveals – against a backdrop of rising asylum seeker evictions and fears of the return of “lock-change” eviction tactics. Fair Way Scotland said 1,205 people excluded from state support accessed its services in Glasgow, Edinburgh and Aberdeen, including 730 who received casework support in an effort to regularise their immigration status and protect them from being made homeless or forced on to the streets.  

Six people were accommodated by the partnership in Glasgow with linked £50 weekly cash payments because they were excluded from all forms of public support. Sixty people in Glasgow, 291 in Edinburgh and 21 in Aberdeen accessed support and advice.

But efforts to house others – including European nationals without settled status after Brexit – will require additional independent funding available to finance accommodation, amid intense pressures on housing supply amplified by global events.

The report from Heriot-Watt University’s I-SPHERE institute, funded by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, calls on the UK Government to overhaul their hostile immigration policies and commit to ending destitution by design. It also urges the Scottish Government to show clearer political leadership by setting out concrete plans to fully mitigate the harm these policies create.

Ministers must deliver on their commitment to helping people with No Recourse to Public Funds (NRPF) or Restricted Eligibility (RE), as set out in the Green-SNP cooperation agreement, authors said, while praising the public sector for doing as much as possible to protect people before Fair Way Scotland launched.

The report also highlights the key role Registered Social Landlords can play in providing social housing to the partnership – citing the example of Maryhill Housing Association in Glasgow, which has already pledged ten flats, some of which are already occupied. 

Fair Way Scotland works to provide people with safe housing in community-based properties, with linked cash payments, access to legal advice and other support including a helpline. Preventing destitution helps people to regularise their immigration status and access work or statutory support where permitted.

The report’s author Beth Watts-Cobbe, Senior Research Fellow at I-SPHERE, said: “Our report shows the distance travelled in the first year of the partnership despite political and economic uncertainty, tight council budgets and high housing demand, and the priorities ahead. 

“Intolerance of rough sleeping and destitution is a marker of a civilised society. The UK and Scottish Governments will rightly be judged on taking the harms experienced by those with No Recourse to Public Funds or welfare support seriously.”

Deborah Hay, Senior Policy Advisor (Scotland) at the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, said: “Destitution should never be a tool of public policy. Yet, the UK Government is doing just that by locking people out of essential support, inflicting needless misery on thousands of people who want to make Scotland their home.

“Fair Way partners have demonstrated that ending destitution in Scotland is possible, despite the challenges. Scaling up Fair Way is now critical given rising demand for help, but mitigation programmes like this shouldn’t be necessary. The UK Government must commit to an urgent change of course and end destitution by design.”  

Sabir Zazai, CEO of Scottish Refugee Council, said: “Safe housing and legal advice is more important than ever as the UK Government continues to pursue hostile policies and deny people their basic human rights.

“As we see a deeply concerning rise in people seeking protection being evicted from their homes, this report highlights some of the proactive ways people at risk of homelessness can be supported.”

Publication of the evaluation comes after a reported sharp rise in eviction cases going through Glasgow Sheriff Court brought by Home Office accommodation provider Mears Housing.

It follows a Home Office decision to shorten the eviction process for people seeking asylum in dispersal accommodation, raising concerns among campaigners that lock-change evictions previously used by Serco could resume. Serco’s policy between 2012 and 2019 meant locks on people’s homes could be changed without notice if they were no longer eligible for asylum support, effectively forcing them into immediate street homelessness.

13 new HNS Associates join drive to end homelessness  

Homeless Network Scotland has welcomed 13 new Associates from across Scotland who will use their personal experience and insight to combat homelessness – significantly bolstering the team.  

The new recruits will join eight Associates working on the nationwide All in for Change programme and the Glasgow Homelessness Involvement and Feedback Team (GHIFT). 

At a series of training sessions in August and September the latest additions have been getting to know their new colleagues and finding out more about their roles and the impact they could have. 

New members shared their feelings about joining the team, with one stating simply: “Let’s work to end homelessness”.  

Among the other messages were “I am excited to work for HNS, creating change for individuals and society. A heartfelt organisation wanting the best for all!” 

Other Associates told of their hope that they would be “involved in making homelessness a less traumatic, frustrating experience” and being able to “push for change”. 

Homeless Network Scotland’s Associate programme provides a platform for people whose life and professional experiences give them invaluable on-the-ground knowledge of homelessness. 

The paid team members get a chance to learn more about and influence policies and practices, connect with politicians, policy and decision makers, and act to achieve change. 

Associates are perfectly placed to find better solutions and highlight what is working and is not, while using their role to build a network of contacts and gain valuable new skills and knowledge. 

All in for Change is an informal and inclusive umbrella group that brings people together to help end homelessness by gathering and sharing information as well as hosting events and roadshows.  

The programme is built on four directions – taking a people-centred approach, ending siloed services, pushing for rapid access to good housing, and fostering a positive, compassionate outlook. 

Change Team members have personal or frontline experience of homelessness and provide briefings covering priority areas such as health and wellbeing and poverty and social justice. The team is represented on the Scottish Government Homelessness Prevention Strategy Group (HPSG).  

GHIFT members who have experienced homelessness lead on changes taking place across services across Glasgow. Members host meetings, events and workshops for people with current or recent experience of homelessness and work with decision makers to ensure their voices are represented. 

“We are delighted to welcome 13 more Associates to Homeless Network Scotland and can already see how their diverse experiences and insights will build on the positive influence the team wields. 

Associates have the opportunity to speak truth to power as a critical friend to policymakers and to help anyone experiencing or at risk of homelessness. Their collective, expert voice guides everyone working towards the achievable goal of preventing and ending homelessness in Scotland.” 

David Ramsay, Impact Lead