Housing (Scotland) Bill published

Today is a landmark moment for homelessness prevention with the introduction to the Scottish Parliament of the long-awaited Housing (Scotland) Bill.

As expected, the Bill contains new ‘Ask and Act’ duties which make preventing homelessness a shared responsibility across the public sector. The overarching policy objective of the homelessness prevention measures is to shift the focus away from crisis intervention and towards prevention activity which can eliminate the need for a household to go through the trauma of homelessness in the first place, but without diluting the existing rights for people who are homeless.

Simply, this will mean relevant bodies ask a person about their housing situation and take action to prevent homelessness. While one action can be a referral to the local authority’s homelessness teams, this should not be the default action. The relevant bodies are:

  • Health Boards
  • Special Health Boards
  • Integration Joint Boards (IJBs)
  • Local authorities
  • Police Service
  • Registered Social Landlords
  • Scottish Ministers’ functions relating to people in prison and young offenders institutions

It is worth noting that the list of relevant bodies to which the duties will apply can be modified by secondary legislation.

This new measure would be welcome at any time, but in the midst of a housing and cost-of-living crisis and with homelessness numbers rising, bolstering homelessness prevention activity is an urgent necessity.

Around £8m has been identified by Scottish Government as estimated costs for the Bill over 3 years from 2025-28. It must be noted that the success of the duties to prevent homelessness are dependent not just on the right financial memorandum to deliver, but access to adequate affordable and social housing.

Homeless Network Scotland is especially proud of Ask and Act given the fundamental role the All in for Change team of people with lived and frontline experience of homelessness played in developing this measure. It’s an exciting moment for the Change Team and a testament to their expertise.

Other key parts of the Bill are:

Changes to existing homelessness legislation to require local authorities to act sooner to prevent homelessness. This will ensure an assessment can be made of whether a household is threatened with homelessness up to 6 months before homelessness appears imminent (a change from two months as required by current legislation) and clarify ‘reasonable steps’ local authorities should take.

New steps aimed at preventing homelessness for people affected by domestic abuse – the biggest cause of homelessness for women. Changes to existing legislation will be made to update the definition of domestic abuse as it applies within a housing context. In addition, a requirement will be placed on all social landlords to develop and implement a domestic abuse policy setting out how they will support their tenants who are at risk of homelessness as a result of domestic abuse.

A new requirement for a local authority’s local housing strategy to include an assessment of the support needs that local people have and the availability of housing support services.

A new power for Scottish Ministers to introduce rent control areas, with local authorities required to carry out an assessment of conditions in relation to rent in their area and make a recommendation about whether Scottish Ministers should impose rent controls in all or part of the area.

This is just the first step. Homeless Network Scotland looks forward to engaging with colleagues and partners to discuss and scrutinise the Bill and its implications as it progresses through the Scottish Parliament.

Read the bill

All in For Glasgow

‘All in For Glasgow’ to support next phase of homelessness services

  • Progression of service model amid housing emergency in Glasgow
  • Change process will draw on local services and lived experience expertise
  • HNS to create structure for partners to collaborate and identify priorities

Glasgow City Health and Social Care Partnership has appointed Homeless Network Scotland to support the progression of its homelessness services against the backdrop of a housing emergency.
The organisation will facilitate a process that draws on expertise of local services and people with experience of homelessness to implement the evidence-backed solutions services can provide and pinpoint what matters most to people seeking help.
The ‘All in For Glasgow’ programme of change will focus on the support people need during a housing and cost-of-living crisis. This includes street outreach services for people sleeping rough, drop-in support at city-centre locations and at-home support for people after an experience of homelessness.
Branching out Housing First will be a priority – this means more capacity to provide flexible, wraparound support for more people whose homelessness is made harder by experiences with trauma, addiction or mental health. Determining the right capacity of support for people who want shared and supported housing will also be a priority. 
It comes after GCHSCP convened sessions with local service providers around the unprecedented pressures on housing and homelessness in the city, driven by factors including the cost-of-living crisis, inflation, UK immigration policy and global events. Glasgow City Council declared a housing emergency in November 2023.
All in For Glasgow will focus on creating the conditions for effective collaboration to advance service delivery by implementing the solutions that are proven to work – a crucial factor in this moment.
Homeless Network Scotland has been tasked with facilitating a new programme that will draw from recent learning, harness the energy of a sector determined to meet current challenges – and to put in place a strong network of support for people in Glasgow affected by both the cost-of-living crisis and housing emergency.
Glasgow is one of only two authorities in Scotland where homelessness is incorporated into health and social care planning structures. The GCHSCP broke new ground by setting up Health and Social Care Connect, a single route for people to access health and social care services.

Susanne Millar, Glasgow City Health and Social Care Partnership Chief Officer, said:

“We are delighted to continue our work with the homelessness sector within Glasgow and nationally. Our multi-agency work over the past several years provides a robust foundation from which we will move forward together.

“We have worked with Homeless Network Scotland for several years and are confident of their role in the next phase of this work.”

Maggie Brünjes, Homeless Network Scotland Chief Executive, said: 

“It is paramount that services that help people without a settled home are backed by best evidence of what works and deliver on what matters most to people using those services.

“Glasgow faces multiple pressures, but the city has the advantage of a skilled network of service providers, and a forward-looking Health and Social Care Partnership with a strong understanding of the problems and solutions that can have real impact.

“This is an opportunity to forge and reconnect pivotal relationships across the sector for the benefit of people and communities.”

A connect event is being held to welcome all interested parties to hear more about the programme and invite your feedback and collaboration. So make sure to book your space by clicking here.

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.”