A new era for All In For Change as 14 new members join

Ginny Cooper, Change Lead at Homeless Network Scotland.

This week we welcomed 14 new members to the Change Team. As I hovered my mouse over the ‘Admit all’ button in our Teams virtual meeting I couldn’t help but feel a little apprehensive. Before everything went online, we would make people feel welcome through eye contact, body language and offering them a cup of tea. On screen it is much harder to gage how people are feeling. But, as the new faces began to pop up on my screen, smiles and awkward waves were exchanged and I knew I didn’t have anything to worry about.

All in for Change is led by a Change Team of people from across Scotland committed to ending homelessness. Every Change Lead brings unique knowledge to the team. Experts in what homelessness looks like within their networks for the people who are most affected, they bridge the gap between policy, planning and action on the ground.

The team was formed in December 2019 and had only just got established when the pandemic changed everything. After a busy 18 months the Change Team continue to play a major part in helping shape homelessness policy and practice, including the Scottish Government’s updated Ending Homelessness Together Action Plan.

The team use clear language and an open and accessible, collaborative working approach to bridge the gap between decision makers, people working in services and people making use of services, as part of a joined-up effort to end homelessness in Scotland.

As with any coproduction process, the group have embraced their different perspectives and experiences and have been ironing out the details as the programme evolves. But few could have predicted just how flexible the team would become – adapting to remote working online, taking on fast moving and rapidly evolving priorities caused by the pandemic.

Over the summer, and as part of the All in for Change (AIFC) programme, the Change Team has been talking to people from across Scotland to learn from their experiences as part of a national conversation. People who see how decisions made around homelessness look in everyday life. People who want to share how they think change can really happen. Responses will feed into a report presented to the Scottish Government.

To get involved in the national conversation simply complete an online survey here, download our starter conversation here or sign up for one of our interactive workshops, the next one is 11 August and you can sign up here.​

Comment: no evictions to nowhere

Claire Frew, Policy and Impact Manager at Homeless Network Scotland, comments on the current discussions on evictions and the urgency needed to prevent evictions in homelessness.

Emergency legislation to prevent the enforcement of evictions during the pandemic has played a vital role in protecting people’s homes – and may at least in part have contributed to the reduction in homelessness applications reported during the first year of lockdown. 

As circumstances change and restrictions start to lift, partners who came together on this issue in response to the public health emergency are now setting out what is needed in the longer term. 

SFHA in a recent report encourage that the pre-pandemic process on evictions needs returned to, that housing associations always arrange payment plans for tenants in rent arrears and will not evict someone who has agreed to, and is meeting, the terms of such an agreement. On the other hand, there are also strong arguments being made for an extension to the pause on evictions; that people’s homes should be protected while there is any level of pandemic restriction in Scotland. 

For Homeless Network Scotland, the route forward is clear – under no circumstances should anyone in Scotland be evicted with nowhere to go. That has always been disproportionate, serves no purpose and achieves no gain. This is also a central pillar of Everyone Home, the collective of 35 third and academic sector organisations. We need the focus of the current conversation on evictions to shift there, and urgently. 

The most common reason for eviction is rent arrears. The Scottish Government recently announced a £10m fund, grants, not loans, to support tenants who have fallen into rent arrears as a direct result of COVID-19. While the details are still to be worked up, this is welcome. Getting cash directly to people can stop evictions quickly and decisively. It must be directed to prevent evictions and to reset the counter on any stage of the eviction process that the household was at. 

We want to encourage confidence – and evidence – that housing associations will never evict someone who has agreed to, and is meeting, the conditions of rent payment plans. And with more support for housing associations, councils and tenants to deliver that. 

And importantly, we want more value given to the benefits of early intervention and the value of keeping people in their homes where possible. This outcome can be achieved through a proactive housing management approach focused on earlier intervention, with independent advice, information and advocacy for tenants and resources in place to ensure we do not return to a situation where people are being turned away or moved on without accommodation.  

The SFHA report acknowledges the benefits of early intervention and the value of keeping people in their homes where possible. To follow on from this, SFHA – in partnership with Homeless Network Scotland, Crisis and Simon Community Scotland – are inviting bids from housing specialists to research, consult and create a practical resource to assist social housing providers to protect homes, prevent eviction, maximise tenancy sustainment and prevent homelessness in Scotland.  

More information from the SFHA website here: www.sfha.co.uk/jobs-online/tenders 

Housing First is part of the solution

Minister for Drugs Policy, Angela Constance MSP, delivered a keynote address at the ‘Branching Out’ Housing First Scotland conference today (Wednesday 24 March) organised by Homeless Network Scotland. The past week has seen a tranche of funding announced comprising separate funds worth a total of £18 million to improve drugs services. The Minister affirms the connection between Housing First and Drugs Policy in this exclusive article.

Housing First supports people with kindness and compassion, in their own homes, for as long as they require that support and in a way that meets their needs. The success of the Housing First Scotland Pathfinder, supported directly by the Scottish Government with up to £6.5m of additional funding for local councils to implement their own programmes, shows us that Housing First works as a way of ending homelessness for around 90 per cent of tenants. Since launching two years ago the Pathfinder has created more than 450 tenancies, with February seeing 32 new tenants move into a home of their own.

It is the most widely evidenced homeless intervention we have, which lines up Housing First as a critical tool in reducing the harm and chaos caused by addiction so often experienced by people with the toughest homelessness journey. The support plans included with Housing First are a critical part of the policy. They build on people’s strengths and aspirations, and while the ambition is to enable people to address issues, there is an understanding that this takes time and care. Abstinence is not mandatory and progress is not a straight line.

Supporting people with multiple needs beyond homelessness, Housing First often works to reduce harm from substance misuse, including accessing treatment. As reflected in the Housing to 2040 vision published last week, Housing First is already an integral part of this government’s housing policy and I see it as an important factor in reducing harm caused by drugs.

In the past week I have announced additional funding for drug services. Four schemes planned to start in May are part of the additional £250 million already announced by the First Minister to tackle drug deaths.  

Among the measures announced were:

·       a £5 million Communities Fund

·       a £5 million Improvement Fund

·       a £3 million Families and Children Fund

·       £5 million Recovery Fund fund

The Scottish Government has also committed to a £5 million recovery and rehabilitation fund to provide additional capacity and to support people financially through that process. Because of a lack of clarity around Housing Benefit, which is reserved to the UK Government, some councils do not allow people to retain tenancies funded by Housing Benefit while in residential rehabilitation. We cannot ask people to make an impossible choice between their tenancy and their recovery journey, so the fund will ensure that people no longer have to.

We recognise that residential rehabilitation may not be the right choice for everyone and our plans therefore include allowing people to access treatment in a setting and at a time that meets their needs.

The success of the Housing First pilot in Glasgow in 2010, underpinned by a wealth of international evidence, has informed the Pathfinder programme in Aberdeen/Aberdeenshire, Dundee, Edinburgh, Glasgow and Stirling, and Housing First is now making a real difference across Scotland.

Housing First has a central role in reducing harm caused by drugs and supporting recovery by providing a safe space, a normal, settled home from where people can start to build and live their lives.

Centre for Homelessness Impact – End it with Evidence Campaign

Earlier this year the Centre for Homelessness Impact launched the book, Using Evidence to End Homelessness, which brought together the insights of leaders in government, academia and the not for profit sector to call for the evidence-led and person-led transformation of the homelessness field.

End it With Evidence builds on this foundation to mobilise, at this moment of great change, a growing chorus of ‘what works’ champions to ensure that, as part of aiming to end homelessness for good, we use this opportunity to understand how to end it effectively. How to end it sustainably. And importantly how to do the most good possible with existing resources. 

The campaign is founded on three following principles, which call upon those working in homelessness to:

  1. Build the evidence of the policies, practices and programmes that achieve the most effective results to improve the lives of people who are homeless or at risk.
  2. Build the capacity needed to act promptly on the best knowledge available to improve decisions and help limited resources go further.
  3. Use evidence-led communications to change the conversation around homelessness, challenge stereotypes, and make sure that homelessness is not a defining factor in anyone’s life.

You can support the campaign in the following ways:

Sign the pledge

The pledge is asking everyone in the centre to commit to evidence in three ways. You can sign the pledge by visiting the website

Share the campaign with your network 

you can show your support on social media using the graphics and draft tweets provided, and by retweeting the Centre for Homelessness Impact. Here is a social media asset you can use and here is a suggested Tweet:

I’ve just joined the #EnditWithEvidence campaign, because I want to ensure that, as part of efforts to end homelessness for good, we use this opportunity to understand how to end it effectively. How to end it sustainably. How to end it with evidence.

Contact the Centre for Homelessness Impact for more information

If you’d like more information about the campaign, how to action your commitment to the pledge, or would like to come on board as an ambassador, drop Jade a line on jade@homelessnessimpact.org and she will be happy to help. 

Home Office Policy Further Discriminates Against Rough Sleepers

Many organisations and local authorities across the UK have voiced serious concern over a new Home Office policy affecting migrants that makes rough sleeping grounds for removal for non-UK nationals, providing the Home Office with the discretion to cancel of refuse a person’s leave to remain if they are found to be rough sleeping.

The new policy came into force on the 1st of December however the Home Office is yet to publish guidance on how the policy should be implemented by local authorities. 

Many migrants are affected by No Recourse to Public Funds (NRPF) conditions, as part of their leave to remain or visa conditions, or due to their status in the asylum system, meaning they cannot legally access social security or access homelessness services when they fall on tough times. Those seeking asylum in the UK are also not permitted to work, cutting off another route out of destitution. Many fear that the new policy will drive those with NRPF into dangerous or exploitative situations to avoid risking their leave to remain as people may be fearful to access outreach services and routes out of rough sleeping at the risk of deportation. 

It is estimated that 300-500 people in Scotland with NRPF experience destitution at any one time who may be affected by this policy change and find their leave to remain at risk due to a lack of resources as a result of Home Office policy. Homeless Network Scotland joined as a signatory on a joint letter to Home Secretary Priti Patel MP and Secretary of State Robert Jenrick MP to bring attention to the concerns of many migrant and homelessness organisations across the UK. The full letter can be found here.  A response to the letter was received on 14 December 2020, notably confirming that the new rules will not come into effect until new guidance is published. The response can be found here.

Homeless Network Scotland are working with the Everyone Home Collective to develop a 5 year strategy for Scotland to support people with NRPF to access accommodation, legal advice, advocacy and practical assistance in line with the route map outlining how to create a society where we prevent destitution amongst people with NRPF and protect human rights. The full route map can be found here