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.

#AllinForChange on road again to Take Temperature of homelessness

The All in For Change team of people with personal and professional experience of homelessness is touring Scotland again to find out what’s happening on the ground in services against a backdrop of unprecedented housing pressures.

The Change team will hold free events in Aberdeen, Greenock, Falkirk, Kirkcaldy and Clydebank on the Taking the Temperature National Roadshow – where they will hear about local issues and solutions before sharing their findings with the Scottish Government.

They want to meet and learn from frontline workers and people who have experienced homelessness as well as local authority staff, managers and councillors. And they are keen for people working in health, social care, social work, addiction and criminal justice to come along — the events are open to anyone who can share their insights.

Prevention is a key theme of the roadshow, as new duties in the upcoming Housing Bill will require the wider public sector to intervene earlier to stop people becoming homeless. The Change Team played a key role in developing the ‘Ask and Act’ duties.

Housing supply and use of temporary accommodation are also up for discussion at the free informal events in February and March.

The team is made up of people who know what homelessness looks and feels like through lived or frontline work experience. Homeless Network Scotland and Cyrenians facilitate All in For Change, which is funded by the Scottish Government and Frontline Network.

Roadshow tour dates

  • Aberdeenshire Council HQ (in Aberdeen) — Tuesday, 20 February    
  • Greenock, Old Auction Rooms — Thursday, 22 February
  • Kirkcaldy, Fife, New Volunteer House — Tuesday, 5 March
  • Falkirk, Arnotdale House — Thursday, 7 March
  • Clydebank, Awestruck Academy — Thursday, 14 March

Suzie McIlloney, Rapid Rehousing Transition Plan Officer at South Ayrshire Council, is also a member of the Change Team.

She said: “We must listen and really hear what people are telling us through their experiences of homelessness. The Roadshows offer an opportunity for further insight into where we can do better but also what worked well.

“Travelling in the direction of being trauma informed and trauma responsive, we need to remind ourselves that when facing uncertainties, people need caring and compassionate connections.

“I got involved with the All in For Change Team because I see the value in bringing policymaking and lived experience together to drive forward real change.

“The more opportunities we have to work closer together, the better the outcomes are for people, services, and communities.

“People thrive off hope, purpose and connection and we can often overlook the significant role communities play in this. I believe everyone should have a place of their own to call home, it is the foundation for people to thrive and live well.

“There is an appetite for change so let’s not lose momentum.”

Change Lead Viki Fox has experienced homelessness and is now Policy and Participation Manager with Cyrenians.

She said: “We are really excited to be hosting our second national roadshow. When I started with the Change Team back in 2019, the roadshows were a key focus as we really wanted to talk to, and learn from, others living and working within the homeless sector throughout Scotland. 

“Contexts and challenges are very different in each area and it is important that we hear this and can feed it back to the Scottish Government. 

“During the pandemic we were doing this online, but nothing beats meeting people in person and having the opportunity to learn from each other. 

“Having experienced homelessness myself and now working for Cyrenians, I know that using this knowledge and hearing about what is working well  in different localities is invaluable if we are to end homelessness in Scotland.”

Paul McLennan, Minister for Housing, said: “Since taking up office, I’ve met with many Housing Convenors across the country to hear about the issues in their area, but these are only views from one perspective.

“I’m interested to hear from people with lived experience and frontline workers, particularly in relation to the barriers they encounter.  

“As we prepare to introduce new homelessness prevention duties, I want to know what people have been through and what works in preventing homelessness from happening in the first place. I’m glad to see the roadshow locations include some more rural communities.

“I’m looking forward to joining the Change Team in Kirkcaldy and hearing some peoples’ experiences first hand.”

The Roadshow events are in five Housing Options Hubs covering local authorities including Aberdeenshire, Inverclyde, Fife, Falkirk and West Dunbartonshire.

The Team will also use the Roadshow to hear evidence of whether the 4 New Directions they have developed to reduce homelessness have been adopted – and where there are barriers.

The directions, designed to help achieve the aims of the Scottish Government Ending Homelessness Together action plan, include co-ordinating services so people don’t have to keep repeating their story when looking for support, and overturning outdated stereotypes of homelessness.