Everyone Home urges budget focus on homelessness and housing

A coalition of organisations including the Everyone Home collective has urged the Scottish Government to use the budget to address a growing housing and homelessness emergency. 

Forty organisations wrote an open letter to Finance Secretary Shona Robison calling for urgent support to address an “escalating homelessness crisis”. 

They warn that although the Scottish Government has made strong commitments to ending homelessness over the past few years, growing demand and limited resourcing has left local authorities unable to cope.

All in for Change hailed for 3 years of action and influence

People with personal and frontline experience of homelessness are influencing Scottish Government policy and inspiring organisations through their work on Homeless Network Scotland and Cyrenians’ All in for Change programme, a report into its first three years shows.

The Change Team works collaboratively with decision makers to develop homelessness policy and one of its biggest successes has been developing the ‘Ask and Act’ prevention duties proposed for public bodies, due to be brought into law.

Other significant achievements since 2019 include influencing policies around rapid rehousing, helping to end the Local Connections policy and giving evidence to MSPs as part of development of the National Care Service.

Policy workers who engaged with the Change Team reported that their unique insight into what works on the ground and impartial input had added credibility to their own work by strengthening the evidence they use to design and improve services.

They said working with Change Leads – including paid Associates with Homeless Network Scotland – helped foster culture change in their organisations, furthering a shift towards prevention and participation informed by the programme’s 4 New Directions to end homelessness.

All in for Change was also credited with overturning stereotypes of people who have experienced homelessness, and Change Leads said their experiences had helped their wider work as they felt respected and “listened to”, boosting their confidence and self-esteem.

The findings emerged in a survey and interviews with Change Leads and policy staff for the report ‘Hitting Home the Message’, an evaluation of the programme to date.

All in for Change was created to help achieve policy objectives set out in the Scottish Government-COSLA joint Ending Homelessness Together Action Plan.

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.

Respondents to the report said more urgent change is needed to connect services and create ‘No Wrong Door’ for people – and that more support is badly needed for those in support roles.

David Ramsay, Impact Lead at Homeless Network Scotland, said: “The Change Team has demonstrated time and again the value of co-developing policy and service design with people who know what works on the ground. They can sense-check policy to guard against complacency.

“Every policy worker interviewed for the report said they would engage with the Change Team again. This speaks volumes about the power of the team to break down barriers in the policy landscape.”

The report also commends the Scottish Government’s Homelessness Unit for enabling and funding the programme and makes a series of recommendations at national, local and programme level.

These include broadening the scope of the Ending Homelessness Together Action Plan to include poverty and inequality – the overarching drivers of homelessness – and for local authorities and health and social care partnerships outside Glasgow to explore local platforms for lived experience.

Change Leads on the Prevention Commission made a significant contribution to the new Housing Bill due to become law in this parliament by coming up with the ‘Ask and Act’ recommendation, which requires relevant public bodies to ask people about their housing situation to identify issues early -and then act to support them.

The team also identified the unfairness and ineffectiveness of the now-removed Local Connections policy, which restricted access to local services to people who could prove they had a connection to the area, and helped the Scottish Government finalise new guidelines on the Unsuitable Accommodation Order.

One policy officer said: “It’s not a box ticking exercise. Every time we’re working on a new policy, the Change Team are part of that. It’s becoming embedded in a lot of our work.”

Another said of the team’s wider influence: “Engaging with the Change Team allowed me to help us understand the difference between active engagement with a particular demographic versus public engagement, which is a far more generic thing. We’ve seen organisational change as a result.”

Homeless Network Scotland statement on the disbanding of the Glasgow Alliance to End Homelessness

Homeless Network Scotland is saddened to learn Glasgow Alliance to End Homelessness has disbanded. This is a painful time for colleagues who have worked so hard and with such ambition to end homelessness in the city and change the story around homelessness.

The Alliance and Glasgow City Health & Social Care Partnership can stand tall having tested a truly collective approach that put people who have been homeless at the centre of decision making. Acknowledging the impossible challenges wrought by the pandemic and taking this difficult decision is equally courageous. The learning must be reviewed and shared so that progress can be made.

This is a hard knock for members of GHIFT, the platform for people with lived experience of homelessness who are supported by Homeless Network Scotland. They have put their heart and soul into exploring ambitious new ways to deliver services and achieve systemic change, driven by their invaluable first-hand insight.

But GHIFT will continue to inform and influence the Health & Social Care Partnership’s homeless strategy and delivery. Homeless Network Scotland will continue to provide strategic partnership and support to both bodies and create opportunities for everyone in the third sector to work together in tackling homelessness.

We will build on the knowledge and connections that flourished through the Alliance to pursue our shared ambitions. There is still much work to be done to end homelessness in Glasgow and Scotland – in the face of the cost of living crisis and rising homelessness this has never been more important.

Martin and Mark from GHIFT reflect on being part of the Alliance. Read their blog here. [pdf]

There may be trouble ahead, so let’s face the music

Homeless Network Scotland, in partnership with Wheatley Group, are proud to present Scotland’s Annual Homelessness Conference and the release today of a packed programme and the first look at a line-up of pitch perfect speakers. Fine-Tuned: striking the right chord on homelessness is taking place on Tuesday 31 October 2023 at Perth Concert Hall, the very heart of a local authority area achieving breakthrough results on homelessness.

It is difficult to remember a time when global, UK and national events have aligned so acutely and with so much pressure on our local housing and homelessness systems in Scotland. The effects are already being felt by those who work or live with the challenges and who are now being relied upon to unlock solutions to unprecedented challenges. Fine-tuned is the opportunity to explore what we all need to fine-tune partnerships, improvise solutions and scale up what works. And to find together points of hope, optimism and inspiration amid the troubles ahead.

The day is warming up to strike the right chord, with guest contributors including:

Paul McLennan MSP Housing Minister

Thomas Glen Chief Executive, Perth & Kinross Council

Jen Ang Director of Development, Just Right Scotland

Maff Potts Director of Association, Camerados

Vonnie Sandlan Social Media Influencer

Dr Beth Watts Senior Research Fellow, I-SPHERE

Jeremy Wylie Associate, Homeless Network Scotland

And (… you may have guessed) some bursts of musical inspiration on the day too. Delegates will be played out by Clanadonia, Scotland’s legendary drum and pipe band.

Being human – and being brave. The conference will explore these two overarching themes across the day, recognising that the times we are living in call on us to nurture relationships, build from strengths and knowledge and grasp the nettle on the big questions. That it’s ok to make mistakes, it’s giving up that’s the real risk to progress. The day will include soloists, sofa sessions, roundtable discussions – and four specialist breakout sessions on immigration, women and homelessness, rapid rehousing and growth mindset. 

Maggie Brunjes, Homeless Network Scotland’s chief executive said:

“This is an extraordinarily pressured and committed sector, and the annual conference offers some time out and the opportunity to connect, draw inspiration and share learning. If you think the day’s themes are interesting and relevant to you, we look forward to seeing you there.”

“If you’re not sure that preventing and tackling homelessness is relevant to your role, then book your place today and let the conference convince you of the need to step outside our different sectors to solve a highly preventable problem in Scotland.”

And from the event partner:

“Wheatley Group is delighted to support Homeless Network Scotland’s Annual Homelessness Conference. As Scotland’s largest housing, care, and property-management group, our mission is ‘Making Homes and Lives Better’ for our 210,000 customers in 19 local authority areas across Scotland.

“As we find ourselves amid a cost-of-living crisis, times are undoubtedly challenging for tenants across the country. With ever-increasing pressure on local housing systems, Wheatley has a key role to play in working with public and private partners to tackle homelessness and help people into their own home.“

So, let’s face the music! Bookings are now open for Scotland’s annual homelessness conference – and we can’t wait to welcome you.

To view the full programme and book your place, please visit Homeless Network Scotland’s online conference page here.  

Coalition calls for private sector to play greater role in ending homelessness

Private landlords could play a far greater role in helping to end homelessness in Scotland, according to a new report from a coalition of homelessness and housing experts.

Releasing its new report, the Everyone Home collective set out how the private rented sector could become a more accessible option for people experiencing homelessness looking for a settled, secure place to live.

The Collective, made up of nearly 40 third sector organisations and academics, strongly welcomed the Scottish Government’s commitment to build 110,000 affordable homes by 2032, a mid-term commitment that would result in the delivery of 38,500 social homes by the end of this parliament in 2026.

But while social housing plays a key role in helping people end their homelessness, the private rented sector is very rarely an option.

In its new report, the group found that widening access to support and advice in private lets would help make the private rented sector more accessible to people experiencing homelessness.

It called on the Scottish Government to promote the role it sees the PRS playing in meeting current and future housing need, setting out a clear vision for the size and role the sector should play in the future tenure composition of housing in Scotland.

It also urged the Scottish Government to support local authorities – in guidance and in practice – to work productively with the PRS to reduce and resolve homelessness.

Incentives for landlords should also be considered, with the aim of improving PRS quality, access and affordability, which also to appeal to landlords who rent to lower income households.

It also recommended targeted, proactive approaches to homelessness prevention for groups which may be at greater risk of eviction, alongside the use of Scottish Government social security powers to top up support for those subject to Local Housing Allowance shortfalls in PRS who are homeless or at risk of homelessness.

Sarah Walters, head of best practice at homelessness charity Crisis, said: “Social housing plays a vital role in helping people end their homelessness. But while for many people a social tenancy is the right option, with better support we know the private rented sector could play a far greater role in helping people find a safe, secure place to live.

“With numbers of people trapped in temporary accommodation at an all-time high, and with a shortage of affordable housing in Scotland, we need to use every option available to us and the private rented sector can help. People experiencing homelessness deserve the same choice and control as anyone else, but we know that they are far too often locked out of the private rented sector. By reducing barriers and providing support, we can help people end their homelessness and strengthen our communities.”

Maggie Brünjes, chief executive of Homeless Network Scotland, said: “There are many factors that influence the choices we make about our housing. From size and type, to location and accessibility, to time and cost.

“People who experience homelessness must have access to the same range of housing options as other members of the public. For some people, the private rented sector offers the right choice, in the right place at the right time. For this reason, it is in everyone’s interest to work together to ensure the PRS is a viable and affordable option.”

A ‘route forward for the private rented sector’ (Everyone Home collective; Aug 2023) is available to download here. For a briefing and to discuss the route-map, a webinar is being held on 24 August, 10.30-11.30 with speakers including Patrick Harvie MSP. To join the webinar please register here.