West Dunbartonshire declares housing emergency

A housing emergency has been declared in West Dunbartonshire amid unprecedented pressures on the ability to meet the needs of those in social housing or seeking a council property.

The local authority said Housing and communities Convener Councillor Gurpreet Singh Johal made the declaration and urged the Scottish Government to review the decision to cut the Affordable Housing Supply Programme allocation to West Dunbartonshire by 27% (£2.873m) for 2024/25.

The Housing and Communities committee heard significant progress has been made in the past year to cut the number of empty homes, while 133 new council homes were built and 262 households were prevented from experiencing homelessness.

But Councillor Johal said the council had no choice but to declare an emergency because of stark figures including over 5,500 households on the housing waiting lists, 274 people living in temporary accommodation and over 1,000 homeless assessments being carried out.

The motion received cross-party support and will now involve the Council engaging with both internal and external partners to map out a way forward.

Councillor Johal said: “This decision has not been taken lightly but I sincerely hope that this can help lead us on the path of greater stability for everyone in our communities, especially those who are facing homelessness and unstable accommodation.”

West Dunbartonshire Council is the fifth local authority in Scotland to declare a housing emergency following similar moves within the past year by Argyll and Bute, Edinburgh, Glasgow and Fife.

Now recruiting: Head of Policy & Programmes

Working at Homeless Network Scotland provides a unique vantage point and an opportunity to be involved in major programmes addressing homelessness in Scotland.

We are a small team that values commitment, flexibility and a sense of perspective. And we offer job autonomy within a supportive and enabling environment where you can bring all your skills – and maybe discover some new ones.

We’re delighted to share this opportunity and invite anyone who is interested to apply. Or, if you know someone who you think fits the bill, please share. Full details below.

Head of Policy & Programmes

  • 35 hours, Monday to Friday.
  • £57,302 – £60,029

You will provide strategic leadership for a small and highly motivated team of staff and associates and reach across a diverse network to instigate, influence and implement the policy and system changes that are needed to resolve homelessness in Scotland. You will also deploy expertise and oversight that increases the impact of Homeless Network Scotland’s programmes and projects.

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Please apply before 5pm Friday 7 June 2024.

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.

#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.