Over the past decade, national government in partnership with local authorities, the third sector and others have delivered radical changes in homelessness and affordable housing. This has contributed to a significant reduction in homelessness applications.
The Homelessness Prevention Strategy Group, which we jointly chair, has been leading the delivery of the 2018 Ending Homelessness Together Action Plan and overseeing its progress. It has also been encouraging and supporting services from across the public and third sector to work together to recognise and act when people are at risk of homelessness.
We made a commitment to report annually to Parliament on progress towards delivering the 2018 Ending Homelessness Together Action Plan. The progress made in the first year demonstrates the commitment and ambition of all partners involved with 39 of the 49 actions having been progressed. We intend to publish the next annual report in February 2021 so that it can report on the most up to date statistics which will be published in January 2021.
This is not just about ticking off actions from a checklist: key shifts are clearly starting to take place across the system, including the move to rapid rehousing by default, including Housing First for those who need high levels of support to maintain a tenancy.
We have begun the process of reshaping the legal framework to extend access while protecting legal rights. We are transforming access to affordable housing to help reduce local authority dependence on temporary accommodation. We are also seeking to support a culture change whereby the whole public sector takes responsibility for preventing homelessness, especially for those at higher risk of homelessness, recognising the significant impact losing your home can have on your wider life and wellbeing. The Statutory Code of Guidance on Homelessness has been updated and now reflects new requirements and changes in practice that will help navigate the significant changes we’re making.
And we are doing all this in partnership between local and national government – alongside people with lived experience of homelessness and frontline services.
Doing more on prevention is vital to bring about an end to homelessness. So in the last year we have launched the prevention pathway for care experienced people, announced a new prevention fund for registered social landlords to help improve tenancy sustainment, and also announced a working group to consider options for a new law ensuring everyone works together to prevent homelessness.
Our ambition to end homelessness has been informed by reflecting on what people with lived experience have told us. They have said we need a system which provides flexible support that builds on people’s strengths, where people receive support to avoid becoming homeless and can exercise their right to maintain a safe and secure home. They have said it is vital that people receive urgent assistance to deal with housing crises and that services work together, in partnership with each other and, crucially, with individuals. Ending homelessness rests on ensuring that people are able to build and maintain positive relationships so that they are part of the community, alongside ensuring sufficient supply of affordable housing that meets people’s needs.
With a determined effort we believe we have put in place the foundations to realise this vision and shift to a person-centred approach that focuses on prevention, joined-up planning, quick and effective responses, and rapid rehousing.
When we reach that point we will be able to say with confidence that we brought about an end to homelessness.
Kevin Stewart MSP
Minister for Local Government,
Housing and Planning
Cllr Elena Whitham
COSLA spokesperson for Community Wellbeing