Shona Robison MSP, Cabinet Secretary for Social Justice, Housing and Local Government
Councillor Kelly Parry, COSLA Spokesperson for Community Wellbeing
Everyone needs a safe, warm and affordable place they can call home.
The Scottish Government and COSLA updated the joint Ending homelessness together action plan in October 2020. Since then, a number of other policy statements have recognised just how important a secure and settled home is for people's wellbeing.
In March 2021, the Scottish Government published Scotland's first long-term national housing strategy, Housing to 2040. The same month the Scottish Government and COSLA published an anti-destitution strategy, Ending destitution together, and we also provided an initial response to the report of the Social Renewal Advisory Board. In September 2021, the Scottish Government published its programme for government for 2021/22, A fairer, greener Scotland.
What all four documents share is the message that decent housing is a fundamental human right.
This annual report describes our progress towards ending homelessness in Scotland and how we are turning the words and policies in Ending homelessness together into meaningful action.
Living with the pandemic has made us re-evaluate the true meaning of home. It has shown us that tackling inequality is more important than ever. It has changed who we see as lifesavers and heroes – as countless frontline homelessness workers have continued to do their jobs during the crisis, putting themselves at risk to provide support for others.
During the last 12 months there has been remarkable progress towards our goal of ending homelessness. We have demonstrated that, with the right approach and funding, local authorities and their third sector partners have the means to end rough sleeping in Scotland. We kept night shelters closed by providing better quality emergency accommodation. We hit our 100,000 affordable homes milestone. We extended the temporary ban on the enforcement of eviction orders to provide renters with safe homes during the pandemic. We introduced hardship schemes to support those struggling to pay their rent. We helped people with no recourse to public funds to avoid destitution. We amended legislation so that no homeless household has to stay in unsuitable accommodation for more than seven days. We saw our Housing First pathfinder programme sail past the milestone of 500 tenancies. We have amplified the voice of lived experience.
We were building on strong foundations. There was already a real determination from local authorities to tackle homelessness. There has been a much greater focus on homelessness prevention activity in recent years. And a strong collaborative ethos already existed in the housing options hubs. All these factors have facilitated the transition to rapid rehousing by default.
We have taken bold steps forward but wider challenges remain. While there were fewer homelessness applications in the last year, the number of households in temporary accommodation has increased as a result of the pandemic. We have made long-term investments in affordable housing in Scotland but some of the poorest households are finding their situation compounded by UK Government policies on welfare and immigration.
We know that there are no simple solutions to ending homelessness. What works for one person does not necessarily work for another. We are committed to a person-centred, trauma-informed and no wrong door approach, which means that homelessness support should fit around the person and their individual needs. We do not expect people to follow a set path or to adapt to a standard range of services. We want our policies and funding decisions to be grounded in the best evidence and that is why we will continue to learn from our expert advisers on the Homelessness Prevention and Strategy Group, from people with lived experience of homelessness and from other nations.
We believe Scotland is leading the way in our commitment to end homelessness but we cannot afford to be complacent. We and our partners must find the energy to dig deeper. We have to maintain momentum with the downward trend in numbers of people rough sleeping. We must step up efforts to address the inequalities that were exposed during the pandemic. We need to get better at joining up services, data and decisions. We must accelerate rapid rehousing approaches to reduce the number of people stuck in temporary accommodation. We must and will deliver on our promises to introduce new homelessness prevention legislation and a new right to adequate housing in Scotland.
Scotland's homelessness strategy is already backed by a £50 million fund, which has helped us to implement major changes to homelessness policy in the last four years. The Scottish Government has doubled this fund and will invest an additional £50 million over this parliamentary term to implement the next phase of our work with partners to end homelessness and rough sleeping.
Our vision has not changed. Our determination to succeed remains firm. Together we can end homelessness in Scotland.