Scottish Government commissions monitor on homelessness

  • Ending Homelessness Together Monitor created to chart impact of national policy
  • Data demonstrates how mix of poverty, inequality and lack of affordable housing drives homelessness
  • Framework will use lived experience to gauge progress towards people-centred systems

A coalition of experts has called on local and national government to adopt a groundbreaking new tool created to measure progress being made towards ending homelessness in Scotland.

The Ending Homelessness Together Monitor is designed to report on indicators that reflect the entwined and predictable causes of homelessness including poverty, inequality, labour markets and welfare levels as well as housing supply and affordability.

A report from the Measuring Impact Task and Finish Group, appointed by Scottish Government and COSLA, states that this evidence will show how wider factors drive homelessness and help decision makers to allocate the right resources and services to maintain progress towards ending it.

But the report published today said the experiences of people and families must also be part of the bigger picture alongside a suite of robust data and evidence.

Insight into the reality of services from All in For Change, a platform for people with lived experience of homelessness, defined factors that matter on the ground including how people were treated and the quality of services they used, while priorities for keyworkers included pay and caseload levels. These inputs will enable the monitor to measure progress towards more person-led services.

New data sets will also allow the monitor to show the impact of the new prevention duties on public sector bodies, due to be written into law in the Scottish Government’s forthcoming Housing Bill.

The new framework has been developed to measure progress towards commitments in the Scottish Government and COSLA joint Ending Homelessness Together Plan. It will use and improve existing housing and homelessness indicators, while also plugging data gaps.

Strategic outcomes of the monitor include providing sufficient social and affordable homes; fewer households and children in poverty; decreasing homelessness; equality in housing outcomes; more choice and control for people in services and a more equipped and enabled workforce.

The key recommendation in the Measuring Impact Task and Finish Group’s final report is that the Scottish Government, COSLA and local partners adopt the monitor.

Housing Minister Paul McLennan said: “I am very grateful to the co-chairs, Maggie Brünjes and Gavin Smith, and to the other members of the group for the time and consideration they gave to this particular challenge.

“We want to get better at measuring progress towards ending homelessness in Scotland and understand how our interventions are helping people. We also want to maximise the impact of every pound spent on preventing and ending homelessness. We will consider the group’s report and recommendations very carefully and respond in due course.”

Maggie Brünjes, chief executive of Homeless Network Scotland and co-chair of the group, said: “The Ending Homelessness Together Monitor will enable us to better measure, across a carefully selected set of indicators, whether we are getting closer to ending homelessness in Scotland.

“This has been an important collaboration across academia, policy, government and the third sector. Gathering knowledge of what matters on the ground to people is vital, and the input of All in For Change will help to ensure that we put people at the heart of measuring progress.”

Group co-chair Gavin Smith, chair of the Chartered Institute of Housing Scotland and service manager at Fife Council, said: “The wider structural causes of homelessness clearly demonstrate that the housing and homelessness sectors do not hold all the levers needed to end homelessness.

“It follows that this framework shows how complex factors create unique experiences of homelessness. The monitor will provide robust evidence of policy impact and progress, helping decision makers to direct resources and tools in a targeted way, so we strongly recommend that it is adopted next year.”

The monitor and report have been submitted formally to the Scottish Government and will go out to the wider public sector for consultation on implementation early 2024.

The group’s report and monitor are available here.

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.”

Ambitious Scots programme to counter misery caused by UK immigration policy must now be scaled up

More than 1,200 people in Scotland received vital support in the first year of an ambitious programme to end destitution caused by UK immigration policy, a new report reveals – against a backdrop of rising asylum seeker evictions and fears of the return of “lock-change” eviction tactics. Fair Way Scotland said 1,205 people excluded from state support accessed its services in Glasgow, Edinburgh and Aberdeen, including 730 who received casework support in an effort to regularise their immigration status and protect them from being made homeless or forced on to the streets.  

Six people were accommodated by the partnership in Glasgow with linked £50 weekly cash payments because they were excluded from all forms of public support. Sixty people in Glasgow, 291 in Edinburgh and 21 in Aberdeen accessed support and advice.

But efforts to house others – including European nationals without settled status after Brexit – will require additional independent funding available to finance accommodation, amid intense pressures on housing supply amplified by global events.

The report from Heriot-Watt University’s I-SPHERE institute, funded by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, calls on the UK Government to overhaul their hostile immigration policies and commit to ending destitution by design. It also urges the Scottish Government to show clearer political leadership by setting out concrete plans to fully mitigate the harm these policies create.

Ministers must deliver on their commitment to helping people with No Recourse to Public Funds (NRPF) or Restricted Eligibility (RE), as set out in the Green-SNP cooperation agreement, authors said, while praising the public sector for doing as much as possible to protect people before Fair Way Scotland launched.

The report also highlights the key role Registered Social Landlords can play in providing social housing to the partnership – citing the example of Maryhill Housing Association in Glasgow, which has already pledged ten flats, some of which are already occupied. 

Fair Way Scotland works to provide people with safe housing in community-based properties, with linked cash payments, access to legal advice and other support including a helpline. Preventing destitution helps people to regularise their immigration status and access work or statutory support where permitted.

The report’s author Beth Watts-Cobbe, Senior Research Fellow at I-SPHERE, said: “Our report shows the distance travelled in the first year of the partnership despite political and economic uncertainty, tight council budgets and high housing demand, and the priorities ahead. 

“Intolerance of rough sleeping and destitution is a marker of a civilised society. The UK and Scottish Governments will rightly be judged on taking the harms experienced by those with No Recourse to Public Funds or welfare support seriously.”

Deborah Hay, Senior Policy Advisor (Scotland) at the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, said: “Destitution should never be a tool of public policy. Yet, the UK Government is doing just that by locking people out of essential support, inflicting needless misery on thousands of people who want to make Scotland their home.

“Fair Way partners have demonstrated that ending destitution in Scotland is possible, despite the challenges. Scaling up Fair Way is now critical given rising demand for help, but mitigation programmes like this shouldn’t be necessary. The UK Government must commit to an urgent change of course and end destitution by design.”  

Sabir Zazai, CEO of Scottish Refugee Council, said: “Safe housing and legal advice is more important than ever as the UK Government continues to pursue hostile policies and deny people their basic human rights.

“As we see a deeply concerning rise in people seeking protection being evicted from their homes, this report highlights some of the proactive ways people at risk of homelessness can be supported.”

Publication of the evaluation comes after a reported sharp rise in eviction cases going through Glasgow Sheriff Court brought by Home Office accommodation provider Mears Housing.

It follows a Home Office decision to shorten the eviction process for people seeking asylum in dispersal accommodation, raising concerns among campaigners that lock-change evictions previously used by Serco could resume. Serco’s policy between 2012 and 2019 meant locks on people’s homes could be changed without notice if they were no longer eligible for asylum support, effectively forcing them into immediate street homelessness.

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.

Over-representation of ethnic minorities experiencing homelessness: new policy paper 

A new policy paper published by the Centre for Homelessness Impact calls for specific interventions to relieve and prevent homelessness among people from ethnic minorities to address stark inequalities among people who are assessed as homeless. The report, written by Nissa Finney, Professor of Human Geography at the University of St Andrews, highlights how inequalities experienced by different ethnic groups across the UK contribute to higher rates of homelessness, including that black people are more than three times as likely to experience homelessness as white people in England and twice as likely in Scotland. 

The paper urges local authorities and accommodation providers to focus on systemic inequalities in housing provision and says governments should bring race equality approaches to homelessness programmes. Read the paper here.