Webinar launches Scotland’s new national Housing First ‘Check Up’

An online event for local authorities and partners on Thursday 25 November will set out plans for a new ‘Check Up’ process that will support the rollout of Housing First in Scotland. Activity will be co-ordinated by a nationwide policy and practice network supported by a strategic partnership between Homeless Network Scotland and the Scottish Government.

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.Scotland is the first part of the UK to move ahead with a national rollout, with local authorities at the spearhead of this transformation.

Branching Out, The National Framework for organisations and sectors starting up or scaling up Housing First in Scotland, has been updated ahead of the webinar to reflect the latest research and data.

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

“The Scottish Government has committed to scale up Housing First and all councils in Scotland have local plans on how Housing First will be implemented in their area.

“However, there’s doing something and there’s doing the right thing, at the right time and in the right place. We know that local authorities are naturally reflective and already committed to the Housing First approach. The new annual check-up process builds on this strong foundation with additional support and advice, safeguarding the elements that make Housing First work.”

Updates to the 100-page National Framework, endorsed by the Scottish Government, SFHA, CIH and Wheatley Group among others, link into the Prevention Review Group report, Shared Spaces research into shared and supported accommodation and the Housing First Interim Evaluation Report delivered by I-SPHERE at Heriot-Watt University. The Framework is a ‘how to and why’ guide to planning, commissioning and delivering the approach locally and nationally covering community justice, housing and social care issues as well as local and national government.

Growing evidence from across Scotland and the rest of the UK supports the delivery of Housing First for specific groups in addition to the wider group of people with the sharpest experiences of homelessness. For example, the Rock Trust and Almond Housing Association have tested Housing First for young people leaving care in West Lothian and their evaluation shows that:

  • All but one young person has continued to sustain their tenancy.
  • All young people described ways in which their relationship with their Housing First worker had led to positive changes in their life.
  • Some young people reported improvements in mental health and satisfaction with life, healthy eating and exercise, and some reported fewer problems as a result of substance misuse.

The Housing First Check Up webinar for Local Authorities and Partners takes place on Thursday 25 November 2021 from 10am to 12.00pm on the MS Teams platform. The event will be hosted by Sir Andrew Cubie and Marion Gibbs, Team Leader – Homelessness, with the Scottish Government. Book a place here.

Choice and options in homeless response

Scotland’s annual conference looking in detail at the causes of and solutions to homelessness takes place next week from 5 – 7 October. The theme of choice runs through this year’s varied programme covering topics from the housing we want to live in, to the area we want to settle and the support we want to tap into as Covid continues to have an impact on housing and support services. 

Guest speakers at this year’s event include Shona Robison MSP, Cabinet Secretary for Social Justice, Housing & Local Government; Professor Ruth Chang from The University of Oxford; Dr Martin Kettle, Glasgow Caledonian University; Pat Togher, Glasgow City Health & Social Care Partnership and Dr Beth Watts, I-SPHERE at Heriot Watt University. The online format using the Remo platform allows Dr Andrew Clarke and Professor Cameron Parsell from The University of Queensland, Australia, to join the event, co-authors of the recently published book ‘Charity and Poverty in Advanced Welfare States.’ 

The conference addresses three questions that will really matter in 2022. 

  • How can we ensure that real-world options match the policy ambition? 
  • How do people exercise choice and control when options are sometimes limited?  
  • How do we enable informed choices, not enable others to make choices for us? 

Professor Ruth Chang’s research on choice and decision-making has been profiled by media outlets internationally. Ruth has also given lectures or been a consultant to industry and academia on this theme. Professor Chang said: 

“Making good choices is not a matter of being expert at discovering the pros and cons of the options before you. If you had a crystal ball and could know the possible futures corresponding to your options, you would still not have the critical tool for making good decisions. What is required instead is the ability to commit, to put yourself behind something. That’s how we can move forward in hard choices and make ourselves who we are.” 

On Tuesday 5 October, journalist Kirsteen Paterson, a 2021 Scottish Press Awards nominee for coverage of immigration issues, interviews Sabir Zazai, Chief Executive of the Scottish Refugee Council, as he reflects on current events, his own journey from Afghanistan and what a fairer way forward in Scotland would look like. This session is presented in association with The National newspaper. 

On day two the choice is yours, with three interactive breakout rooms exploring choice in support led by Dr David McCartney, Clinical Lead, LEAP, NHS Lothian; Robin Johnson, Founder and Editor of PIElink; Rankin Barr & Frank Reilly from Simon Community Scotland. Also on day two, Pat Togher, Assistant Chief Officer Glasgow City Health and Social Care Partnership, looks at how cities are planning their recovery from a unique set of homelessness challenges experienced during the pandemic. 

Wrapping up the conference on day three is, Freedom of Choice? Choice Informed By Trauma Awareness, a panel session that offers insights and stories about how personal choice is viewed by those in authority within the criminal justice system and demonstrates how an understanding of the impact of trauma for those dealing with the reality of addiction and homelessness can change minds and outcomes. Hosted by Ishbel Smith of Heart In Mouth, conversationalists will include Iain Smith (Scottish Lawyer of the Year 2020) and James Docherty and Kirsty Giles of the Scottish Violence Reduction Unit

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

“Choice is the core principle that will lead us through current dilemmas and debates about what options are ‘right’ for whom, and in which circumstances. But informed choice is key – people with a housing concern or crisis need access to the right information, and for some a bit of advice and advocacy too.  

“We work closely with partners to prepare this annual event and work hard to make sure it reflects the moment. We look forward to welcoming you, to learn from the previous 12 months and shape the year ahead.” 

Two key pieces of research will be launched at the conference. On Tuesday 5 October the much-anticipated report, Shared Spaces, looks at the future role of supported and shared housing as a response to homelessness in Scotland. This is presented by the report author, Anna Evans, Director at Indigo House along with chair of the research advisory group, Dr Beth Watts, Senior Research Fellow, I-SPHERE at Heriot-Watt University.  

The following day, Wednesday 6 October, the launch of the Homelessness Monitor is hosted by Crisis. The Homelessness Monitor provides an independent analysis of the homelessness impacts of recent economic and policy developments. A panel discussion will be chaired by the Chief Executive of Crisis, Jon Sparkes, including a presentation of findings by Heriot Watt University followed by a Q&A with Maggie Brünjes CEO of Homeless Network Scotland, Catriona MacKean of the Scottish Government and John Mills of ALACHO. 

Delegates will benefit from specialist conference platform, Remo – which takes online events to a new level. Remo enables greater interaction, with table-to-table networking and the freedom to roam and join spontaneous conversations in the ‘room’. 

Booking for the conference can be made online here, more information and the full programme is available at this link. There’s also still time to be associated with Scotland’s annual homelessness conference highlighting your organisation as an exhibitor or sponsor. More information here on the Homeless Network Scotland website. 

Network Briefing for August 2021 is now live

Homeless Network Scotland’s regular update is now live and you can access it by following this link. This month’s Network Briefing includes the latest sector news and details of our current recruitment for Head of Policy and Equalities, plus an update on All In For Change as we welcome 14 new members to the team. There are dates for your diary, including a ‘save the date’ for our autumn conference as well as some events taking place in the next few weeks. To receive the Network Briefing direct to your inbox, sign up here.

Comment: no evictions to nowhere

Claire Frew, Policy and Impact Manager at Homeless Network Scotland, comments on the current discussions on evictions and the urgency needed to prevent evictions in homelessness.

Emergency legislation to prevent the enforcement of evictions during the pandemic has played a vital role in protecting people’s homes – and may at least in part have contributed to the reduction in homelessness applications reported during the first year of lockdown. 

As circumstances change and restrictions start to lift, partners who came together on this issue in response to the public health emergency are now setting out what is needed in the longer term. 

SFHA in a recent report encourage that the pre-pandemic process on evictions needs returned to, that housing associations always arrange payment plans for tenants in rent arrears and will not evict someone who has agreed to, and is meeting, the terms of such an agreement. On the other hand, there are also strong arguments being made for an extension to the pause on evictions; that people’s homes should be protected while there is any level of pandemic restriction in Scotland. 

For Homeless Network Scotland, the route forward is clear – under no circumstances should anyone in Scotland be evicted with nowhere to go. That has always been disproportionate, serves no purpose and achieves no gain. This is also a central pillar of Everyone Home, the collective of 35 third and academic sector organisations. We need the focus of the current conversation on evictions to shift there, and urgently. 

The most common reason for eviction is rent arrears. The Scottish Government recently announced a £10m fund, grants, not loans, to support tenants who have fallen into rent arrears as a direct result of COVID-19. While the details are still to be worked up, this is welcome. Getting cash directly to people can stop evictions quickly and decisively. It must be directed to prevent evictions and to reset the counter on any stage of the eviction process that the household was at. 

We want to encourage confidence – and evidence – that housing associations will never evict someone who has agreed to, and is meeting, the conditions of rent payment plans. And with more support for housing associations, councils and tenants to deliver that. 

And importantly, we want more value given to the benefits of early intervention and the value of keeping people in their homes where possible. This outcome can be achieved through a proactive housing management approach focused on earlier intervention, with independent advice, information and advocacy for tenants and resources in place to ensure we do not return to a situation where people are being turned away or moved on without accommodation.  

The SFHA report acknowledges the benefits of early intervention and the value of keeping people in their homes where possible. To follow on from this, SFHA – in partnership with Homeless Network Scotland, Crisis and Simon Community Scotland – are inviting bids from housing specialists to research, consult and create a practical resource to assist social housing providers to protect homes, prevent eviction, maximise tenancy sustainment and prevent homelessness in Scotland.  

More information from the SFHA website here: www.sfha.co.uk/jobs-online/tenders 

New roles ramp up Lived Experience to resolve Homelessness

During a question & answer session at the Homeless Network Scotland conference in March then Housing Minister, Kevin Stewart MSP, was asked what made Scotland’s response to homelessness different. The Minister’s response was instantaneous – ‘People’.

Among the most active independent people working to ensure the right solutions are put in place has been the Change Team. Collectively, team members form All In For Change, a group comprising individuals working in the sector along with those who have their own lived experience of being homeless, drawn from across Scotland. This unique arrangement means the big issues can be viewed from multiple perspectives at the same time and in the same space. The kaleidoscope of views and opinions this process cultivates makes sure those who know the answers are helping to shape solutions. Homeless Network Scotland created this platform for people in partnership with Cyrenians and Scottish Community Development Centre.

The Change Team are experts in what homelessness looks like on the ground for those most affected by it, which is why they have a seat at the table on the Homelessness Prevention and Strategy Group. The combination of practical and professional experience has been valuable in helping to shape important work taking place under pressure during the pandemic. Members have also contributed to longer term decision making and policy setting in connection to the work of the Everyone Home Collective and the Prevention Review Group, which reported in the spring.

Building from the impact All In For Change has had during the past 18 months, the Scottish Government committed in the Housing to 2040 paper to create an exciting opportunity for one person with current or previous experience of homelessness to join its Homelessness Unit on secondment for up to two years. The post is called a ‘Policy Officer’ and is a full-time, paid position. Applications close this Sunday 20 June at 4pm.

The post holder will work with colleagues across the Homelessness Unit and with the Change Team to deliver commitments in the Ending Homelessness Together action plan, such as preventing homelessness from happening in the first place, improving temporary accommodation standards, supporting the shift to rapid rehousing and understanding housing affordability.

The Change Team will continue to play a major part in helping to shape homelessness policy and practice, including the Scottish Government’s updated Ending Homelessness Together Action Plan. With this in mind, the team is looking to expand and in addition to the opportunity above is recruiting for people with lived experience to take forward this important agenda as a Change Team member.

The team use clear language and an open working approach to bridge the gap between decision makers, people working in services and people making use of services as part of a joined-up drive to end homelessness in Scotland.

Change Leads with experience of homelessness are paid at Real Living Wage of £9.50 per hour for work carried out on behalf of All In For Change, around two hours per week is invited. Click here for details and to apply. The Scottish Government role is a paid, full time secondment of 37 hours per week. For further information about that post, please contact Janice Higgins at Homeless Network Scotland on JHiggins@homelessnetwork.scot and email completed applications to Janice by 4pm on Sunday 20 June 2021 – the application closing date for both roles.