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

Learning Lounge Open For Bookings 2021

Our Learning Lounge for January-March 2021 training courses is now open for bookings.

Our 2021 knowledge and learning prospectus uses the technology we have all become familiar with in recent months, such as video conferencing and webinars, to compensate for being unable to serve up more traditional training in person. Each session is interactive, fast paced and participatory as well as using the most up to date evidence and research from across the sector.

Most importantly our new menu of training includes new ingredients, drawing on what we have learned since March 2020, as an organisation and as a sector. You will find respected and popular favourites plus brand new options.

Take a look at our training brochure here and book your place here. You can also subscribe to our newsletter to receive updates about future courses.

Reflecting on a Year of Influencing Change – and What we Have Learnt Along the Way

Led by Change Leads from across Scotland, All in for Change is supported by partner organisations, Homeless Network Scotland, Cyrenians and the Scottish Community Development Centre (SCDC) – each bringing a unique perspective and focus. 

As we continue to celebrate the 1st year anniversary of the launch of All in for Change, Shelly Coyle, Ginny Cooper and Susan Paxton reflect on their experience supporting the group to grow and evolve since it launched last December.

Ginny, Homeless Network Scotland: “All in for Change is a unique and exciting programme. We provide support and guidance to the Change Team, working together to make sense of the knowledge shared and translating this into key messages and actions to pass on to policy makers and those making critical decisions for homelessness in Scotland. The pandemic has shown how flexible the team can be – adapting to meeting online and taking on shifting priorities in Scotland’s actions to end homelessness. We too have had to adapt to support this.” 

Susan, SCDC: “Looking back I think we’ve come a long way in the past year, it’s been such an amazing learning experience and one that I’m grateful for. We all came into the programme after it had started and I was excited to be meeting the Change Leads for the first time at the monthly retreat in March, then COVID hit and I thought ‘what are we going to do now?’.”

“We decided to go ahead with the retreat as planned but moved it online, and we proved pretty quickly that it could be done (and we’ve been doing them ever since) but there were challenges, both technical and about the relationships we were trying to build. None of us have even met in person yet, but the Team are so determined and passionate about ending homelessness that everyone pulled together, everyone’s contributed, and the Change Leads have responded to every opportunity put in front of them. The amount of work they’ve done has been truly inspirational in what has been a really challenging time.”   

Shelly, Cyrenians: “From my perspective, a really special part of this work has been observing the relationships that Change Leads have formed, watching barriers between those from different sectors, and people with different experience, eroded. This is the goal, I suppose, in all our work in this sector, that we see each other as people, and all experience is equally valued. Perhaps we could be seen as a little microcosm of what the rest of society could be like.” 

Ginny: “This experience has taught me so much already. First and foremost, to be flexible and embrace the different perspectives and personalities of the people who make up the team – allowing us to disagree and work things out together. We are continuously learning. Second, to not rely on too rigid a structure and allocate time for people to share and listen to each other. It has been important to accept when working in this way that, although the programme does have a goal and purpose, the pace and direction has to be shaped by the team.” 

“Like anything new, it can be challenging at times. It is hard at first to see how the passion for change, seen amongst Change Leads, translates to influence and creates impact at policy level. It’s about trusting the process and giving it time.” 

Shelly: “It has been a privilege to see how Change Leads have firstly found their voice as a team, and then become aware of the potential of the place at the table that they have been afforded by linking into the Homelessness Prevention and Strategy Group (HPSG) and speaking directly to policy makers and influencers. I am excited how hungry the team are to capture a wider breadth of experience, to learn more from their networks and then draw on this knowledge and ensure policy makers are listening and responding. It’s a pretty unique situation.”

Susan: “We (SCDC) came into the programme as co-production ‘experts’, which is misleading because we always say there are no experts in co-production! We all have our own unique insights, experiences, knowledge and perspectives and no one is more important than anyone else. As facilitators we had to learn when we were doing too much and taking too much of a lead, and when to step back. I think we navigated that reasonably well because we were determined to listen to what Change Leads were telling us – what was working, what wasn’t and reacting and responding all along the way.” 

“I think creating the space for conversations, both about what’s happening in policy but also about what Change Leads were experiencing during COVID has helped build strong foundations for us to work well together as a Team. We’re still learning, but we know a lot more about striking that balance between getting work done and making sure the way we’re working feels right for everyone involved.”

Ginny: “We have many things we still need to work out. How to better embrace the range of needs and skills in the group and allow these to develop and grow. How to ensure we create a unified goal and voice, but still respect the experiences and knowledge of the individual members.”

“I’m encouraged by the support the Change Team are receiving from decision makers, and the rest of the sector. This has shown us that there is a growing thirst for partnering with people with personal and professional experience to develop and deliver the best policies to end homelessness in Scotland.”

All in for Change is an inclusive programme where, through clear messages and information sharing, a collaborative effort to end homelessness in Scotland is driven. It provides the vehicle for ‘planning and policy’ to plug into ‘practice, place and lived experience’ in an informal, but informed and connected way.

Homeless Network Scotland bring a wealth of experience capturing the voice of lived experience around policy work and influence and their national network connections enhance the programme.

Cyrenians bring a rich perspective that is embedded within frontline homeless service provision in Edinburgh, mid-Lothian and Falkirk and also their links with the Scottish Frontline Network.

Scottish Community Development Centre (SCDC) are the Scottish leaders in community development and co-production and ensure the programme adheres to the original values.All in for Changeis the participation arm of the Homelessness Prevention and Strategy Group (HPSG) and is funded by the Scottish Government and the Frontline Network, from St Martin-in-the-Fields.