Homeless Network Scotland welcomes Ruth Whatling to our Leadership Team this week in the role of Head of Policy & Equality, a newly created post that speaks to a growing awareness and importance placed on equality considerations in ending homelessness in Scotland.
Ruth joins Homelessness Network Scotland on a two-year secondment from the Scottish Government’s Homelessness Team and with two decades of public sector experience including equality, policy and public administration roles in the Civil Service.
Originally from near Reading in Berkshire, with close family connections to Edinburgh, Ruth trained as a nurse in Hull before working in nursing in London then later relocating to Scotland.
Ruth says: “Having seen the work of Homeless Network Scotland from an external perspective, I am excited to see up close the collaborative way of working that the organisation is known and respected for – finding a way through those tough, obstinate problems that get in the way of what works. When interacting as a civil servant there is often a feeling that a power imbalance exists, whether real or perceived. Engaging with our membership and partners at eye-level is something I am really looking forward to.
“One of the attributes Homeless Network Scotland possesses is credibility and trust, a reputation for delivering that incentivises partner organisations and others to engage and participate to find solutions. The leading role of lived experience in informing and guiding Homeless Network Scotland’s work also impressed me. It is clear that expertise by experience sits at the heart of everything we do in a really meaningful way.”
Ruth is going to be actively involved in the work to scale up Housing First in Scotland, the first part of the UK to roll out the approach as a national policy. Starting in the New Year a check-up process will support local authorities to embed the policy in their Rapid Rehousing Transition Plans.
Building on the Prevention Review Group report and new public sector prevention duties another focus will be the increasingly high-profile prevention agenda, which is a key strand of work for Homeless Network Scotland, local authorities and third sector organisations. “Prevention and equality share a characteristic, both must be applied while also doing the day job,” says Ruth. “We can’t switch to real equality overnight. Despite a robust legislative framework, attitudes must change; practice must adapt and improve. Similarly, prioritising prevention rather than responding to a problem after it has happened is a process. Frontline workers must continue to respond while simultaneously shifting focus to preventing homelessness before it starts. Part of our role is to support the great work already underway across the country by sharing learning and facilitating effective and meaningful partnerships.”
A key focus for Ruth is equality. Ruth said: “I am looking forward to supporting local authorities and partners understand what’s needed and what can be achieved when we all pull in one direction. The legislation is there, and part of the challenge is about illustrating what we mean by equality – what it looks like. We all have a role in breaking the ‘big’ issue down into smaller, manageable chunks that really mean something to people in ordinary workplace settings – it is not an abstract idea. True equality is about understanding people’s needs as an individual and having a vision of how to meet those needs in the way we provide services and address disadvantage.”