Housing First helps Maxine to Transform her life

Housing First is helping a woman who struggled with addiction, trauma and physical abuse to maintain a tenancy for the first time and transform her life. Maxine has been in her Dundee flat for four years following several tenancies that failed due to abandonment, non-payment of rent or anti-social behaviour. 

During one tenancy she was cuckooed, attacked and hospitalised, and she had spells staying in a temporary hostel which caused her further physical and mental anguish. 

She moved from a hostel into a flat in 2020 with support from Transform Community Development as part of the Housing First Pathfinder it led with other local organisations from 2018 to 2021. Funds once spent on hostels are now being repurposed to develop Housing First in the city. 

Despite moving closer to her mum Maxine wasn’t confident and was sceptical about the level of support she’d get – an important factor as she has fought addiction most of her adult life and suffered trauma including the overdose death of a brother. 

But members of the now rebranded Housing Support Team ensured her flat was furnished and carpeted and helped her access the treatment at Dundee Drug & Alcohol Recovery Service, something she had difficulty in sustaining previously.  

Maxine also got help with household budgeting and was supported to be a good neighbour and attend urgent medical appointments.  

Her support level has dwindled from 20-plus hours of direct support from her Housing Support Worker each week to a couple of hours a week, and this will be stepped down to a lower-level support team in the coming months.  

But if Maxine’s needs increase, she can re-enter the Housing First programme without further assessment – showing the flexibility and participant-focused nature of the support.   

This approach also allows the Housing Support Team to reallocate support hours and free up a Housing Support Worker for a new tenant. 

Maxine has now taken up meaningful activity including engaging with a community arts programme, which has given her social connections outwith her previous network.  

The Housing Support Team works actively with over 90 people, providing innovative and intensive support to those who are homeless or threatened with homelessness. 

Transform Community Development took forward mainstreaming of Housing First in Dundee at the end of Social Bite’s involvement in the programme, using an innovative and far-sighted strategy to develop and expand the programme. 

The charity works with Dundee Health and Social Care Partnership and Dundee City Council to develop services in alignment with the local Rapid Rehousing Transition Plan. 

Fair Way Scotland: Not just a ‘fluffy’ coalition doing nice things

Fair Way Scotland is a partnership of third sector organisations which aims to combat destitution and homelessness among people denied access to support on account of their immigration status — a state of affairs driven by hostile UK Government policy.

The partnership works to provide people with safe housing in community-based properties, with linked cash payments, access to legal advice and other support. This helps people to regularise their immigration status and access work or statutory support where permitted.

Homeless Network Scotland’s new Programme Advisor Hazel MacIver shares her initial impressions of the programme and sets out how the determination and positivity of its partners, allied to the programme’s evidence-based approach, is achieving tangible results.

“It’s hard to believe that in this day and age it is actual government policy that some people who come to the UK are not allowed to access any state benefits but are also not allowed to work. 

“I find it hard to comprehend because why would we design a situation which bakes in destitution as an outcome or drives people into the exploitative arms of people who are happy to make a profit from their misery?

“I understand the political pressures to limit access to state benefits but to also say you can’t work either? I find that incomprehensible. Which is why Scotland has Fair Way.

“It is a consortium of organisations that include Refugee Sanctuary Scotland, Scottish Refugee Council, Simon Community Scotland, Turning Point Scotland, Homeless Network Scotland, Joseph Rowntree Trust and I-Sphere (housing experts at Heriot-Watt University).

“All these organisations have their own boards, identities, funding etc and have come together under the joint umbrella of Fair Way Scotland to provide specialist legal advice, support and advice and a safe place to stay for people who are either destitute or on the cusp of it.

“But more than that, JRF and I-Sphere are involved to evaluate the work of Fair Way and gather hard data to better understand this policy area in Scotland.

“This isn’t just a ‘fluffy’ coalition doing nice things.

“For a start it is no mean feat to get a group of organisations working together in this way. It takes a massive commitment to stay together and work well together — it is far easier to split apart.

“And secondly, the evaluation and learning side of it gives it an edge that will hopefully inform how we can do things better in the future. Because there is a better way of doing things for sure than current UK government policy.”

Read about the first year of Fair Way Scotland

2024: Something doesn’t add up…

Maggie Brünjes, chief executive of Homeless Network Scotland, on the long-term impacts of short-term decisions on housing. And what needs to happen now to make 2024 count.

Imagine there was enough decent and affordable housing for everyone in Scotland in the places we want to build and live our lives.

What would happen?

Firstly, we would see radical improvements in Scotland’s physical and mental health.

It is widely understood that our health is shaped by factors that go well beyond the heredity and genetic cards we were dealt or even how we access and experience health and social care services. Housing is one of the most influential factors making us more or less healthy – as individuals and across whole communities and populations.

Secondly, poverty and inequality in Scotland would shrink.

More equal societies do better on almost every measure that matters. But inequality persists in Scotland, including within the housing system. People are systematically disadvantaged due to factors including our income, our race, our gender, our age, and our health. Even our orientation, how we identify and express ourselves, exposes people to a greater risk of inadequate housing and homelessness.

But impactful housing and fiscal policy, especially at the supply side, would redress this. It has already been shown that lower social rents and a more responsive supply of social homes create lower rates of poverty in Scotland. There is also fresh appetite for policy that tackles inequalities in housing wealth – not just the different advantages between renting and home ownership, but the difference between owning one and owning multiple homes.

When housing is affordable and available, there are also wider positive benefits for the local economy, for employment growth and job retention. Keeping housing supply affordable is critically dependent on a pipeline of capacity and resource that keeps pace with the demand for it.

Thirdly, homelessness as we know it would end.

Homelessness is not only a housing issue, but it’s always a housing issue. There is simply no route to ending homelessness in Scotland that doesn’t include more social and affordable housing. The homelessness sector has modernised over recent decades and now embraces a culture that most of us, with the right support if we need it, can build and live our lives in an ordinary home in an ordinary community.

With a supply of affordable housing in harmony with demand, we would see the key pillars of Scotland’s progressive homelessness policy implemented with greater ease – prevention, cutting the strings to our over-reliance on unsuitable, expensive and temporary accommodation, ensuring childhoods are spent in settled not temporary homes, scaling up Housing First for those at the hardest edge – and ensuring people seeking sanctuary or to settle in Scotland have a safe place to stay at all times.

With enough decent and affordable housing, Scotland would healthier, happier, fairer and more economically secure.

Nice start to the year, isn’t it?

But instead, we’re sweeping up the glass of Scottish Government’s December budget which unveiled a £200m cut to affordable housing – jeopardising housing targets and exposing the progress made towards ending homelessness and rough sleeping to unnecessary risk.

And so say all of us. Over the last year, coordinated representation, evidence and opinion across all these points and more have been made by:

  • Local authorities, individually and through the leadership structures of ALACHO and SOLACE.
  • The housing sector, including through SFHA, CIH Scotland and GWSF.
  • The home building industry, including through Homes for Scotland.
  • The homelessness and refugee sectors, including through the Everyone Home collective and the relentless campaigning of Shelter Scotland.
  • Regulators and auditors, including the Scottish Housing Regulator, the Accounts Commission and Auditor General.
  • Platforms for people directly affected, including All in For Change and tenants’ organisations.
  • The anti-poverty sector, including the Poverty Alliance and Child Poverty Action Group.
  • The academic and knowledge sector, including I-SPHERE at Heriot-Watt University and the Joseph Rowntree Foundation.

It doesn’t add up.

When the case is presented by so many informed stakeholders. When the benefits of more and better homes are so fundamental and self-evident. And when the consequence of not providing it is so devastating to people’s lives – then the questions and reactions will inevitably become more complex and more pressured in 2024. If government doesn’t have enough capacity or resources to meet the demand for social and affordable housing in Scotland – who does? Where does that take us, and what happens next?

At Homeless Network Scotland’s annual conference in October, and at our post-budget meeting in December, Housing Minister Paul McLennan outlined the Scottish Government strategy to attract private finance into Scotland’s housing system. The Minister has been proactive about securing investment to meet Scotland’s housing need since he took up office in March, and we support his commitment to a model and method that retains investor confidence while ensuring protections for people who rent their home.

The problem of course now is that any new investment needs to first plug a shortfall before it can progress us further than we already were.

Making it count.

This new environment for housing in 2024 will compel all parts of the housing and homelessness sector to put forward priorities and options to mitigate the worst impacts of a drastically reduced housing budget for the year ahead. Policy and budget decisions don’t add up, but we still need to make it count – this is our starting point:

  • Stop the big freeze. The UK Government’s capital budget being frozen to March 2028 means close to a 10% real terms cut over 5 years for infrastructure projects in Scotland, including housing. Reversing or tempering this forecast would reinstate some of the lost capital budget – and is not beyond possibility.
  • Prevent the pile up. The Scottish Government cut the housing budget beyond the inflationary freeze sent by Westminster. Reversing or tempering this decision – and redressing the impact in next year’s budget, will increase confidence and support.
  • Think big on social investment. There are a small number of third sector organisations who have already shown leadership and innovation in how social investment, often in the form of low-cost repayable loans, can be used to create housing options. A group of us have come together to launch a new commission in 2024 that will build and present a business case for a strategic and national approach.
  • Focus on distribution. More capacity and levers for initiatives focused on empty homes and in reducing housing wealth inequality. The UK Collaborative Centre for Housing Evidence have already described policy reform potential, along with the twin constraints of devolved policy and reformability – the overall appetite for wealth reform across society.
  • Measure what matters. More than ever, we need to measure the impact of housing policy and spend. Last month, a coalition of experts called on local and national government to adopt a groundbreaking new tool, the Ending Homelessness Together Monitor. The carefully selected set of indicators are intended to demonstrate the interplay between what causes homelessness, the level of resources and tools needed to prevent and alleviate it and the adequacy of the system of services that help people through it.
  • Use a route map. To navigate an increasingly complex terrain, we need a clear route-map between the commitments in Housing to 2040 and the Ending Homelessness Together Plan and the aspirational outcomes in the new Ending Homelessness Together Monitor. This will provide the missing mechanism to sequence, cost, target and time the range of actions now needed.

‘You need to have that know-how if you want to make changes for the people it affects’

All in For Change members with personal and professional experience of homelessness have been talking about their work on the team and explaining the benefits a co-production ethos brings to the table.

The Change Team works with decision makers to develop homelessness policy and has had a significant influence in areas including development of the new prevention duties proposed for public bodies and policies around Rapid Rehousing.

Change Lead Suzie McIlloney, Rapid Rehousing Transition Plan Officer at South Ayrshire Council, talks about the positive experiences and range of different work she has been involved in during her time on the Team.

I got involved with the Change Team because I see the value in coming together, listening and driving forward real change.

Before coming to South Ayrshire Council, I supported people who were experiencing homelessness.

I am extremely lucky to be involved with a team of people who are passionate and who really care about what they do.

As a team, we come together as equals, we learn from each other, we have built relationships, we support each and deliver on what is needed to change.

What surprised me most is the range of opportunities we are involved in. I have participated in the Prevention Duties Task and Finish group, attended focus groups, I have spoken at conferences – this is just a snapshot.

Bringing policymaking and people with experience of homelessness together just makes sense. You need to have that know-how if you want to make changes for the people it affects. This is what co-production is all about.

The Change team’s successes and future priorities are set out in this evaluation of the programme’s first 3 years.

#AllIn for CoPro: ‘To see our concept drafted into legislation was special’

Since 2019 the All In For Change team has been using its wide-ranging expertise to help achieve objectives set out in the Scottish Government-COSLA Ending Homelessness Together Action Plan.

The team works with decision makers in local and national government to develop policy, and one of its biggest successes to date has been developing prevention duties proposed for public bodies, intended to be written into law in the forthcoming Housing Bill.

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. The team also facilitates roadshows to take the temperature of how things are working around the country.

To mark Scottish Co-Production Network’s #CoProWeekScot, Change Leads have been sharing their experiences of working as part of #AllInForChange. Below we hear from David Pentland, on the team since the very start, and new Change Lead Lisa.

Members of the Change Team with Housing Minister Paul McLennan

David Pentland, Change Lead since 2019

When I joined the Change Team – an eclectic mix of lived experience, frontline workers and senior council staff – it was my first visit to the policy arena and the workings of Scottish Government.  

One of the first pieces of work after I joined in December 2019 was the Prevention Commission, a subgroup of the Change Team that fed directly into the Prevention Review Group facilitated by Claire and David from Homeless Network Scotland.  

They really broke down the ask of the Prevention Review Group well and supported us over many months to formulate a piece of ideal legislation that was reflective of what we thought needed to change in homelessness.  

Although I couldn’t make every meeting as I was working, I did however always feel completely up to date and ready to participate with the updates provided.  

To then watch our concept of prevention duties, placing a legal duty on statutory/public bodies to “Ask and Act” regarding people’s housing stability being drafted into legislation, was special. 

In the main Change Team, we did a lot of work with Beth from Heriot-Watt University’s I-SPHERE institute, looking at research models and a lot of the work the institute had been commissioned to do historically. I really enjoyed drinking in the information, and I became really interested in policy and legislation. 

The Change Team has evolved since launch and was inhibited during the lockdown restrictions. It was however exciting to come out of lockdown and start work on the roadshows.  

We planned and carried out roadshows in five areas of Scotland – it was exciting to see what the reality was on the ground and how central government initiatives had improved the lives of people experiencing homelessness. 

Being part of the Change Team has been a worthwhile endeavour and I would like to think it has brought policy and legislation closer to the people experiencing homelessness. 

‘It is liberating experiencing co-production’

Lisa, new Change Lead

To be part of All In For Change inspires me as it consists of a full circle of members, from those with professional status to people who have used services. Experiencing both sides brings passion to support evolving positive change.

It is liberating experiencing co-production as power in numbers creates a wider strength for our cause. Different personal experiences and outlooks on what is needed, once brainstormed and navigated, creates a need and ideas for change.

The value of co-production being brought to homelessness policy making is togetherness, a cohesive community, creating a positive support bubble – ‘ALL IN FOR CHANGE’.

The Change team’s successes and future priorities are set out in this evaluation of the programme’s first 3 years