Back to Reality!

After just over a year off on maternity leave raising a very special little girl (I am biased I know!) I am so pleased to be back at work, juggling a new set of responsibilities and challenges. Before returning in April I felt anxious about what the reality of work would be now, especially since I had left the office at the start of lockdown and hadn’t returned. I was thrilled to be back in, around my colleagues and even more excited to be back for the first “in person” Change Team Retreat since 2020.

That the Change Team has continued to function since lockdown, when they were only in their infancy as a team, is a credit to the determination and commitment of the members themselves. When we all had Zoom fatigue, they continued to come together and work tirelessly on ensuring the changes outlined in the Ending Homelessness Together plan were reaching those who are most affected by homelessness – the people who are experiencing it and the frontline workers who support them. The Change Team have made huge contributions to policy and practice throughout lockdown, including contributing to the Everyone Home Collective, holding a National Conversation consultation exercise and feeding into many external consultations. On top of this, they have been working on their own priorities for change and taking platforms at conferences and webinars to share their message.
On the 20th of April in Arnotdale House we were finally able to bring the Team together in person again. For some, it was a welcome return to a serene venue and for newer members it was their first visit and first time meeting their fellow Change Leads in real life. I know I was a bit nervous and I’ve done this plenty of times before so I can only imagine how our new Change Leads felt on their journey.

From the moment the first Change Lead arrived there was a buzz in the air. The atmosphere was amazing, and enthusiasm was palpable. The day was filled with introductions, ice breakers and activities to allow us all to get to know each other better and feel as comfortable as possible, creating the ideal Team dynamic for what we know will be a really successful and productive year for the All in for Change programme.

To set us up for success, the Team have voted on the priorities to focus on over the coming year at our monthly Retreats, where we will invite experts in each field to share knowledge and answer questions. Growing our own knowledge and sharing our own expertise will stand the Team in good stead for another busy year of influencing change.

Our areas for focus for the year’s retreats are:

  • Flexible and person-centred support
  • Youth homelessness
  • Ending stigma connected to drug use
  • Support for people in tenancies
  • Holding tenancies for people serving short term sentences
  • Health and wellbeing
  • Raise awareness of social justice issues

Each of the priorities fit under one of our 4 New Directions, People First, At Home, No Wrong Door and Good Vibes.

If your organisation has expert knowledge or specialist experience in any of the issues listed and would be interested in sharing your expertise with the Change Team, please get in touch at and we will get you involved.

Watch this space, as I think this could be our most impactful year yet!

Reflections from Claire Frew 

How much change can happen in almost eighteen years?  I’ve been thinking about that a lot during my final few days working at Homeless Network Scotland. 2004, when I first joined the organisation, seems like a long time ago. Which of course it is. Clearing out my desk got me thinking about what has changed and, equally interestingly, what hasn’t. 

A couple of obvious things come to mind. 

In 2004 the Homelessness Task Force had not long completed its work, making a series of recommendations, many of them focused on changing the legal framework for homelessness. And for a while it felt like the sector was collectively working towards the shared priority of removing the priority need test from homelessness legislation. Wherever you were and whoever you were speaking with, the ‘2012 target’ was central to almost every conversation. Looking back, it was probably the greatest level of momentum and collective ownership I’ve experienced. And we’ll certainly need that again if Scotland is not only to create new legal duties to prevent homelessness, but to truly make them a reality for everyone who may need the extra protections.

It’s also interesting to look back on the evolution of Housing First in Scotland. From those early conversations in 2009 when very few people had heard of the model, to the position we find ourselves in 2022 where three-quarters of local authorities are delivering Housing First and over 1,000 people are benefitting from the housing and support they need. It’s a nice reminder that change does happen. But also a reminder that change can be slow and takes a considerable effort from so many people just to inch forward. And when thinking about how much is still ahead of us before Housing First truly becomes the default offer for those who need it, that sense of momentum and collective ownership will be needed here too.

It’s been a pleasure to be part of a small team working hard to change the way we think about and respond to homelessness in Scotland. I know my colleagues at Homeless Network Scotland will continue to do this alongside the rest of the sector and I look forward to seeing what they achieve next.

If I leave with any reflection, it would simply be this: always remember why you do what you do, celebrate progress along the way, and don’t lose patience as you’ll need it for the long haul.

Ensuring everyone who is eligible gets to vote in May’s council election 

Scottish council elections are taking place on Thursday 5 May. Anyone who is 16 or over, lives in Scotland and has registered to vote can participate.  

People who don’t have a settled address or are experiencing homelessness can still register to vote. The Electoral Commission is keen that anyone who is eligible to vote and wants to participate in elections should be able to do so, including people who do not have a settled address or may be experiencing homelessness. Registering to vote gives people an opportunity to have their say on issues that are of importance to them.  

The 32 local councils in Scotland make decisions about local services including homelessness, libraries, parks / public places, roads and footpaths, social care and in some cases social housing.  

Anyone who wants to vote in this year’s council elections must ensure they register by midnight on Monday 18 April. While people with a settled address can register in five minutes at, those without a settled address may need to complete a ‘declaration of local connection’ form in order to register. 

The Electoral Commission has published guidance for professionals who work with people experiencing homelessness, which you can use to support those you work with to have their say on 5 May. 

If you need support with specific registration queries you can contact your local Electoral Registration Office. Details for your local office can be found by entering your postcode here. You can also download digital and print resources from the Electoral Commission, including graphics and posters, to run your own awareness campaign in your organisation. 

People needing change, people leading change

Ginny Cooper & David Ramsay from Homeless Network Scotland reflect on their experiences working with people to lead Change.

Ginny: My colleague David and I are programme leads at Homeless Network Scotland focusing on systems and culture change and prevention, respectively. A big part of the transformational change we are working towards is to provide our network with clear and accessible information about what needs to change to help end homelessness in Scotland. So, we are having a go at co-writing a blog!

All In for Change was set up to help Scotland’s policy and legislation around housing and homelessness to be implemented in practice and is facilitated by Homeless Network Scotland in partnership with Cyrenians and Scottish Community Development Centre. The programme does this by connecting people and communicating clear messages and a common goal. It is led by a team of people with lived and frontline experience of homelessness and relies on their knowledge, and the knowledge of their networks, to find out what progress people are seeing in improving the way we support those currently experiencing homelessness.

Since joining the organisation in 2019 I have been encouraged by the commitment of the homelessness sector in Scotland to involve the voice of people with lived experience in driving change. Through co-production and co-design the traditional power imbalances we find in the current system can be challenged but there is still much more we can do.

David and I were excited to be asked to talk about our approach to Co-production at a Scottish Co-production Network’s learning event on Wednesday 24 November where we heard Jim McCormick from the Robertson Trust talk about the need for us to work towards making co-production a right and not just an invitation. I increasingly believe that it is not enough to ask people to only contribute their lived experience but also essential that we find the best way to apply people’s experience of the system to help them lead change.

Lockdown has also been a challenge with the programme only being launched a few months before we found ourselves connecting via Zoom. We have seen members drop out due to increased pressures at work, supported people who were less confident using digital platforms to ensure their voices were still being heard, and are continuously learning and adapting the way we do things.

David: Whenever I am invited to deliver a presentation on co-production it gets me reflecting on previous work I’ve been involved in, and this was no different.

Having been involved in the work of Homeless Network Scotland for ten years now, the first three as a volunteer, I’ve seen my fair share of attempts of co-production (some good, and some not as successful). I admit, I have been involved in some of the examples which have not gone so well but have gladly learned from these (well I hope so😊).

Looking back at one of the best examples I have been involved in was a project called Navigate. Navigate had peer volunteers advocating for people who needed support with housing and welfare benefit claims. This was the first peer led project I had been involved in where people who had experience of homelessness and benefit issues were supporting others. People had come along to volunteer and give up their own valuable time to help others. It was really close to my heart, as I came through a very similar route, so I was keen to get involved and make it a success.

When I think back, one of the first things we all had to agree on was a common aim for the project and an understanding of what co-production meant and that’s easier said than done. We introduced co-production at the very first introduction meeting, encouraging people to start thinking about what approach they wanted to use, and to agree on what was best for the group.

Most people had been involved in other projects before and were not used to this language (to be fair neither was I). So, it was important to start from a place where people were comfortable and take the time to explain why a co-produced approach was different, and what the benefits were. Delivering co-produced projects can take more time than traditional methods but the payback is worth it.

This was a great project and massive learning for me, and everyone involved. We would use this learning to shape projects over the next 5 years and are still referencing it now.

The co-production model is something that just feels right, and I believe we should advocate to use it more.

Everyone Home Collective – Everyone push!

by Martin Gavin

Have you ever watched someone struggle to push a car that’s broken down, edging forward an inch at a time trying to get the vehicle to the side of the road? Then someone else begins to push, followed by another couple of helpful passers-by and quickly the vehicle is rolling forward.

Everyone Home collective came together in May 2020 in response to the pandemic with a few people who knew one another. Membership is now 37 organisations and individuals, all pushing in the same direction. At the time it provided momentum and mutual support in response to a crisis and was a space for senior leaders in the homelessness sector and leading academics in the field to focus on the issues amid the intense noise of the initial reaction to Covid.

More than 18 months later, the Everyone Home collective has set out priorities for tackling the biggest issues in homelessness coming up, with a ‘Platform for Change 2022’. It builds on successful measures to address homelessness during the pandemic and consolidates the ‘Ask About Housing’ message developed last year, aimed at anyone who comes into regular contact with individuals and families, from GPs and teachers to neighbours or friends.

For me, being involved in the Everyone Home collective has been inspiring and sometimes surprising. Witnessing the impact and sustainable change that has come about through genuine collaboration is refreshing – it’s a lively, friendly and challenging environment where some of the biggest and smallest teams work collectively, along with individual members, with scale and specialism valued equally.

Over the summer in 2020, as we all tried to make sense of how the first global pandemic in a century would affect our own objectives and goals, it was clear that no one organisation could ensure homelessness remained high on the agenda of local and national government with competing and urgent priorities vying for resources and attention.

The collective’s first move was to identify three urgent priorities. These are: more homes for good health; no return to rough sleeping; no evictions into homelessness. The collective now meets less frequently but still regularly – providing a platform to Scottish Government, local authorities and housing associations to implement shared priorities to end homelessness.

These measures remain central to ending homelessness for good and still underpin the platform for change in 2022 – setting out what works and what matters along with the change that’s needed over the coming 12 months and the specific role that the Everyone Home collective will contribute. Among the measures are: 

‘Ask About Housing’ professional and public perceptions programme to support implementation of new duties to prevent homelessness

commissioning expert support to scope the potential of high-value social investment to increase housing supply in targeted areas

a route-map on a role for the private rented sector to increase housing capacity and options to prevent and respond to homelessness

securing a strategic funding partnership to mobilise Fair Way Scotland and bring about an end to destitution among people with no recourse to public funds. 

We have all benefitted as individuals and organisations from being part of Everyone Home and I’ve learned a lot about what real collaboration looks like. Out of adversity, we’ve seen huge strides forward in dealing with the systemic issues that lead to homelessness. For me, the collective captures the soul of this sector perfectly.