#AllIn for CoPro: ‘We can make better policy with people’

All In For Change provides a platform for people with experience of homelessness and frontline staff to connect with decision makers and contribute to the development and implementation of homelessness policy.

To mark Scottish Co-Production Week, Louise Thompson from the Scottish Government’s Homelessness Unit shares her experiences of working with the Change Team in areas including the new prevention duties – driven by a sense of purpose, collaboration and plenty of laughter.

The Change Team contribute to the development and implementation of policy by ensuring our policies are informed by the lived experience of people who are homeless or at risk of homelessness.

There are many examples where the Change Team have contributed to Scottish Government policy on homelessness.

One which is current and ongoing is their contribution to the development of new prevention duties which are intended to be introduced in the Housing Bill.

Change Leads co-designed the questions on lived experience with colleagues from the Homelessness Unit for the prevention duties consultation.

Change Leads will be an important partner in ensuring the Scottish Government get this legislation right, including through their involvement in developing guidance to reflect the needs of people experiencing homelessness in a practical and meaningful way.

As civil servants, myself and colleagues in the Homelessness Unit work hard to make changes and develop policies to help people, but we can make better policy with people. This is why the Change Team, and the experience they bring, is so important and why I consider myself lucky that I get to work with them.

Louise Thompson, Scottish Government Homelessness Unit

Recently the Change Team has been further strengthened by the addition of new paid Homeless Network Scotland Associates. The new recruits are already bringing their experiences to our work around the prevention duties and sharing their insights into what is working and what could be better in services, from adopting more person-centred and joined-up approaches to reducing stigma.

Looking ahead, I am excited about there being another ‘taking the temperature’ tour where the Change Team travel across Scotland to hear the views of people with experience of homelessness and who work in homelessness.

Offering opportunities for people to participate from different parts of the country, including rural and island communities as well as under-represented groups, is important in gathering evidence.

As civil servants, myself and colleagues in the Homelessness Unit work hard to make changes and develop policies to help people, but we can make better policy with people. This is why the Change Team, and the experience they bring, is so important and why I consider myself lucky that I get to work with them.

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

Housing First Pathfinder passes 500 tenancies

Scotland’s Housing First Pathfinder has created more than 500 tenancies since it launched two years ago, with an additional 25 added in April 2021.

Housing First provides ordinary, settled housing as a first response for people whose homelessness is made harder by experiences such as trauma, addiction and mental ill health. The Pathfinder launched officially in 2019 in Aberdeen / Aberdeenshire, Dundee, Glasgow, Edinburgh and Stirling supported by housing providers and funding from The Merchants House of Glasgow, Scottish Government and Social Bite.

Ewan Aitken, Chief Executive at Cyrenians, which leads the Edinburgh Housing First Consortium, said:

“A home is a fundamental human need – we all need one to build a life and to flourish. Housing First is a truly system-changing approach, built on respect for others, whatever their circumstances. It is one that acknowledges that meeting this fundamental need should come first, rather than supporting someone until they’re ‘housing-ready’ – as had previously been the case, and an impossible task for those from the toughest of realities. Then the building of relationships-based support is what makes the tenancy sustainable, so that people can lead the life they want to lead. 

“At Cyrenians we are privileged  to with work our partners and lead the Housing First Edinburgh Consortium, and play a part in Scotland’s story of Housing First. There is much to be done ahead in building a Scotland that works for everyone, but this incredible milestone is cause for celebration, and a moment to recognise the incredible work of frontline workers and the people they journey with, right across Scotland”

Josh Littlejohn MBE, co-founder of Social Bite, which kick-started the Pathfinder, said:

“It’s amazing to see the Housing First Scotland Pathfinder programme surpass its 500-tenancy milestone, and not only that, but to also see more than 85% of individuals continuing to maintain their tenancy each month makes it an even bigger achievement for everyone involved.

“While the world ground to a halt due to the pandemic, the Pathfinder continued to work tirelessly to ensure people were still being housed, bringing us this incredible result. Social Bite is immensely proud to have played a part in making the pathfinder a reality and it is with special thanks to everyone that supported or took part in the Sleep in the Park campaigns that we are able to celebrate this significant milestone. Long may this vital work continue.”

“Maggie Brünjes, Chief Executive of Homeless Network Scotland, which is Programme Manager for the Pathfinder, said:

“Each milestone reached is achieved by new tenants putting down roots, and the commitment of local authorities, housing and support providers helping that to happen. We are proud that 507 tenancies have been created in the Pathfinder areas and a strong performance in April as we enter year three is encouraging as Housing First starts to scale up across Scotland. The National Framework provides a clear and comprehensive resource to support every partner and sector starting or scaling up Housing First in Scotland and is updated four times a year to keep it current and relevant for everyone.”

The key indicator of ‘tenancy sustainment’, which shows how many people kept their tenancy, remained high throughout the second full year of the Pathfinder, and is 86% per cent for April 2021 as the Programme marks two full years of operation. This compares favourably to international standards. The Pathfinder has now entered its third and final year, as Housing First Scotland sees most local authorities adopt the model as part of their Rapid Rehousing plans.

A bigger ambition to end destitution in Scotland

Twenty-eight influential charity and academic sector organisations working to end homelessness will start consulting from Monday (17 August) on the second in a series of Route Maps designed to permanently end rough sleeping and destitution (1) in Scotland as the country emerges from the pandemic.

The Collective, named Everyone Home, includes many household names and respected organisations working to end homelessness in all parts of the country. Together, they have agreed a ‘triple-lock’ of measures to mitigate the impact of the pandemic on homelessness with:

  • more homes
  • no return to rough sleeping
  • no evictions into homelessness. 

The second Route Map considers issues facing people who do not have access to the welfare benefits and housing options that are available normally in Scotland for people at risk of homelessness. This is described as having ‘no recourse to public funds’ and most commonly affects people seeking asylum; those appealing decisions are most affected, with around 50% of appeals subsequently upheld. Some EEA nationals without settled status are also at risk of destitution and homelessness because they cannot access some help and benefits.

There are around 1,600 destitute asylum (2) migrants in Scotland, of whom around half are in Glasgow. A further group of 2,050 destitute EEA migrants in Scotland are also at severe risk of destitution. 

Chief executive of Scottish Refugee Council (SRC), Sabir Zazai, said:

“People in the asylum system are forced into destitution due to the No Recourse to Public Funds (NRPF) policy, a deliberate decision by the Home Office. Today’s Route Map provides a clear solution to prevent destitution. It is essential that the issues facing people with NRPF are part of mainstream housing policy. For Scotland to eliminate rough sleeping, everyone, no matter their immigration status, must be protected and have access to a safe place to stay. Scotland has a proud history of welcoming and supporting people. This route map is an important step in working towards an even better future for people seeking safety in this country.”

The Route Map explains in detail how people in Scotland are destitute as a direct result of UK legislation. This can mean little or no money to meet basic needs, such as food, medicine or access to washing facilities. Having no recourse to public funds is for most people a temporary experience but can be the catalyst for poor mental health, rough sleeping and physical or sexual abuse. The Route Map aims to mitigate the damaging impact of that experience until their status is legally resolved or reconnection with a person’s country of origin is made, with a forward plan in place to ensure destitution is not experienced in another place.

UNESCO Chair: Refugee Integration through Languages and the Arts, Alison Phipps OBE, said:

“There has now been over a decade of academic research, third and public sector commissioning and substantial activism with regard to the critical levels of destitution affecting a range of populations in Scotland. The death rates attributable to destitution and poverty are rising and well-documented. The voluntary sector is stretched to the limit financially and emotionally. This report from the Collective is timely and urgently needed.

“It is time to value the analyses and to implement the deep structural change which will move vulnerable populations out of repeated crisis, and volunteers and workers out of emergency response mode. I am delighted to endorse its findings and energised by its calls to action.”

Chief Executive of Homeless Network Scotland, Maggie Brünjes, said:

“When the pandemic began to unfold in March rapid emergency support was provided to everyone who was destitute regardless of their immigration status. As we move into autumn there is a significant risk of people once again being forced onto the streets or into unsafe living arrangements, experiencing extreme poverty and at risk of exploitation and abuse – all the problems we were trying to deal with previously. 

“It doesn’t have to be that way. The response earlier in the year demonstrated that ‘destitution by design’ is unnecessary and there is now lower tolerance for, and higher ambition to end, this situation in Scotland. This is the time to act and put in place measures that will make sure no one experiences destitution in Scotland as emergency measures are lifted.”

From Monday (17 August) to the end of September Everyone Home is consulting widely on this Route Map. Anyone wishing to comment or contribute to the document can contact: hello@everyonehome.scot  or telephone 0141 420 7272 and/or join the conversation on social media at #EveryoneHome – more information at www.everyonehome.scot 

A letter to Members of the Scottish Parliament

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Dear Member of the Scottish Parliament

Preventing Evictions During a Pandemic

We are writing to ask for your urgent support in extending an important aspect of Scotland’s coronavirus response. Please help prevent an increase in homelessness this autumn by supporting an extension to temporary safeguards relating to evictions.

The Everyone Home Collective came together early in the pandemic because we knew the conditions were being created for a surge in homelessness; we want to do all we can to prevent that. The Collective of organisations from across the third, academic, legal and advice sectors meet frequently on priorities to mitigate the worst impacts of the pandemic on people affected by or at risk of homelessness in Scotland.

A second wave of new eviction cases that may result from the social and economic impact of COVID-19 can be mitigated by Parliament extending the provisions from 30 September to April 2021 in the first instance. This was also a key recommendation of the expert Homelessness & Rough Sleeping Action Group.

We are concerned that if these temporary measures are lifted prematurely you may see an increase in homelessness in your constituency. With the pandemic far from being over and the lasting impact on unemployment unknown, this would be devastating for individuals and families and counter to good public health outcomes in the community.

Members across the Scottish Parliament can make sure that people with the most insecure housing and economic conditions do not shoulder the impact of this pandemic.

Evicting people into rooflessness is to be avoided at any time, especially during a public health emergency. It is crucial that we all play our part to prevent homelessness from happening in the first place and that we ensure tenants and landlords have the support they need to resolve any issues. The majority of evictions are due to rent arrears, and we counter the position that people who can pay and don’t are a significant number. The Collective are much more likely to advise and support people with rent arrears who have significant money challenges, people with many other life stresses, and people who avoid official correspondence because of mounting pressures affecting their health and wellbeing. Each case has a unique, very real and very human story. These households need our help, especially now and in the aftermath of this pandemic.

These are not ordinary circumstances. The emergency measures put in place quickly and with Parliament’s support have helped many people stay safe and well over the past few months. This is why we are urging you to support the extension of emergency legislation on evictions up to April 2021 in the first instance.

Yours sincerely

the undersigned

Homelessness charities to meet Minister

Seven senior representatives of 27 charities and academic organisations in the ‘Everyone Home Collective’ will offer their support to the Scottish Housing Minister, Kevin Stewart MSP, during a private meeting later today (Tuesday 28 July). The group will also seek reassurance from the Minister on aspects of the Scottish Government’s plans to prevent and address homelessness as lockdown measures ease and businesses reopen.

Among the issues on the agenda for today’s discussion are extending emergency legislation on evictions to April 2021; preventing a return to rough sleeping for people living in hotels; the role of private sector (PRS) landlords in tackling homelessness in future; plans to scale up Scotland’s highly-regarded Housing First programme, which is a way of ending homelessness permanently; support for people who do not have access to the full range of benefits or housing due to their immigration status, known as ‘No Recourse to Public Funds (NRPF).

The Collective includes respected charities and academic organisations, including many household names, working to end homelessness in all parts of the country. Together, they have agreed a ‘triple-lock’ of measures to protect the progress that has been made in accommodating most people who are currently homeless and frame the next steps. 

Today’s discussion will draw on these key asks contained in the Everyone Home Framework, submitted to the Scottish Government in May as a sector-wide response to Covid-19, as well as more recent developments and new information. The three themes are:

  • prioritise prevention, create as much housing capacity as we can now and make a long-term commitment to increase the supply of homes for social rent
  • permanently prevent a return to previous levels of rough sleeping in all areas
  • no evictions into homelessness, the end of avoidable evictions and the threat of illegal evictions.

Representing the Everyone Home Collective at today’s meeting are senior representatives from member organisations Crisis, Four Square, Glasgow Night Shelter for Destitute Asylum Seekers, Homeless Network Scotland, Simon Community Scotland, Scottish Refugee Council and Ypeople.

Janet Haugh, Chief Executive of Ypeople, will ask the Minister about the role that private landlords can play in helping to tackle homelessness.

Janet Haugh said: “As a collective we agreed to look at the role of private rented sector accommodation in preventing homelessness, and this becomes even more important as we edge towards autumn and winter. We want to explore the impact of any extension to the temporary rules on evictions and work together to find solutions, as well as support the government in discussions they may be having. We need quality, affordable options to end rough sleeping and tackle homelessness. Working alongside a range of housing providers including private landlords to identify suitable accommodation is the right approach so that the PRS can play a stronger role in a post-COVID recovery.” 

Janet Haugh – Chief Executive, Ypeople

Annika Joy, Project Director at Glasgow Night Shelter for Destitute Asylum Seekers, said: “We want to see an end to destitution in Scotland and protect the human rights of everyone who wants to make Scotland their home. The Collective is publishing a series of route maps and the next in the series is looking in detail at No Recourse to Public Funds. I will be asking the Minister how we can help bring together funders and partners and support the Scottish Government to provide services for people who find themselves without access to most benefits or housing choices – and how the Collective can support the Minister to engage the UK Government on this issue as immigration is reserved to Westminster.”

The next scheduled Route Map from the Everyone Home Collective on No Recourse to Public Funds and immigration status as it relates to homelessness is due to be published in August.

For more information visit www.everyonehome.scot or follow @homelessnetscot on Twitter.