Housing emergencies: Argyll & Bute charts way forward

Argyll and Bute Council has detailed key outcomes from a Housing Summit held after it declared a housing emergency last year. The summit brought together 90 partners from public, private, third and community sectors who pledged their support to take action to address the housing shortage. Read more here.

Edinburgh and Glasgow also declared housing emergencies at the end of last year. In Glasgow, The Ferret news outlet and Greater Govanhill Community Magazine recently hosted an Open House session for experts, local people and people working in the housing and homelessness sectors to explore issues and solutions. Read a summary of the event.

Meanwhile, Fife has become the latest local authority to follow suit and declare its own housing emergency amid “unprecedented pressure” on housing and homelessness systems in the area.

The council recently agreed a three-year plan to tackle homelessness which highlighted the need for an estimated £67.3 million to help the escalating number of families without permanent housing. Full details here.

Housing First joint funding call to support people and families

Families are increasingly benefiting from the positive impact of Housing First Scotland, figures highlighted in a new report suggest.

The annual Check-up published by Homeless Network Scotland flags up Scottish Government figures showing there are 100 children in Housing First households against fewer than five reported in 2021 ­– hinting at the growing scope for Housing First to reunite parents and children.

This would add to proven life-changing effects of Housing First in preventing homelessness for people who face multiple disadvantages, by providing settled housing with flexible support.

But despite these promising figures the report warns the housing crisis and current funding arrangements are “actively damaging” delivery, upscaling and staffing of Housing First – amid rising demand and increasing homelessness.

The report states: “Housing First reaches people other services have not been able to reach. All this needs a steady supply of social homes.”

It says contributors have given examples of tenants engaging in the Housing First process so they can work towards having access to their children – and in time take them out of care – but adds that more data is needed to get the full picture of what is happening.

Housing First combines settled, ordinary housing in a community with flexible support – as much or as little as needed – to help a person maintain their tenancy.

The Check-up report sets out the successes and challenges in 2023-24 of Housing First across 26 local authorities, based on insights from housing and support providers, and tenants.

The report contains 14 priorities based on themes that came up again and again – covering areas such as funding, tenancy support, partnership working and staffing.

As of September 2023, 1,646 Housing First tenancies had been started since inception in Scotland. Housing First is demonstrating that 90% of tenancies are being sustained over 12 months from entry.

But the report points to analysis by Heriot-Watt University that suggests Housing First is currently only meeting around 9% of projected demand, underscoring the need for long-term funding.

In most local authorities, funding for Housing First is aligned with transition funding from Scottish Government which is temporary in nature.

In some areas this means local authorities are unable to offer Housing First workers job security, with knock-on effects on recruitment and caseload sizes.

The report highlights the urgent need for Housing First to move toward a more permanent cycle of funding so that it can be upscaled at pace. Due to the overlapping nature of people’s circumstances, a model of funding that reaches across a range of council departments is now needed to get best results – including homelessness, community justice, mental health, drug and alcohol recovery services.

The report also points to evidence of cost savings across the NHS and wider public sector delivered by Housing First and stresses the importance of all services that benefit investing in delivery.

Housing Minister Paul McLennan said: “Providing people experiencing homelessness with accommodation first, before helping with their longer term needs, is at the heart of rapid rehousing.

“The Scottish Government’s ambition is that Housing First will be the first response for people across Scotland whose homelessness is made harder by experiences with trauma, addiction and mental health difficulties.

“I welcome this report which highlights the steady progress local authorities have made in rolling-out Housing First across Scotland, with 26 local authorities now delivering the service, over 1,600 tenancies delivered, and tenancy sustainment rates of 90%.

“It is particularly profound that enabling people to maintain settled tenancies through Housing First is supporting children to return to safe homes.

“I recognise that for Housing First to achieve its full potential, a steady supply of social homes is needed and there is more to do to ensure it is available for anyone who needs it. We remain committed to working in partnership with local authorities to achieve that ambition.”

Homeless Network Scotland chief executive Maggie Brünjes said: “Housing First in Scotland is becoming internationally regarded and our local authorities and their partners deserve huge credit for branching out Housing First in the face of housing, budget and cost-of-living crises. 

“But there are thousands more people braving a range of challenges who are not getting the proven benefits of Housing First. And there are many support staff juggling complex caseloads under a shroud of job insecurity.

“This can be solved by giving more homes to Housing First and by drawing funding from across local authority budgets to mirror the range of life circumstances that Housing First meets. We can’t risk rolling back on Housing First. We need national and local leadership to help step up our efforts to extend the positive impact of Housing First to more people, families and communities.”

Read the Annual Check-up for 2023.

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: Register to Participate

Service providers invited to help design support services for people affected by the housing and cost-of-living crisis in Glasgow.

Following an information event held on 23 February 2024, third and independent sector organisations are being invited to co-design best services to support people affected by the housing and cost-of-living crisis in Glasgow.

Homeless Network Scotland has been appointed by Glasgow City Health and Social Care Partnership to facilitate and support this process ahead of a planned procurement exercise later this year. Both organisations are committed to acting together with purpose, pace, openness and to co-design.

In turn, they are inviting third and independent sector organisations to participate in a service design approach that:

  • Understands the challenge and uses best evidence of what works.
  • Centres what is best for people using services and takes a ‘whole-person’ approach.
  • Builds from strengths, skills and assets we already have to hand.
  • Commits to developing and demonstrating equality competence.
  • Remains faithful to the purpose and collaborates constructively to achieve it.

If you would like to be part of the service design process using this approach, then please register your main contact within your organisation by Friday 15 March 2024. 

You can register to participate by clicking this link here and sharing your contact details.