Shona Robison MSP, Cabinet Secretary for Social Justice, Housing and Local Government
This annual report describes the progress made during the last 12 months towards ending homelessness in Scotland.
It is published in a period dominated by the implications of the cost of living crisis, including soaring inflation and spiralling household energy bills.
The cost of living crisis is affecting everyone but is disproportionately impacting those on the lowest incomes, including tenants who are already struggling with housing costs, people out of work and people who are unable to work. These households will find it very hard to manage rising bills in the months to come, and we may see more people pushed towards housing precarity and homelessness. That is one of the reasons why the Scottish Government took action to support and protect tenants by introducing emergency legislation to deliver a moratorium on evictions and a rent freeze until at least 31 March 2023.
The illegal war in Ukraine and the number of displaced people seeking a place of safety in Europe highlight just how important it is to have safe housing during a time of crisis. Providing accommodation and support is a humanitarian imperative and Scotland has responded with a warm welcome. Local authorities have a long and proud history of stepping forward at a time of crisis and resettlement teams are in place in all 32 areas to support new arrivals and help them integrate. Scotland has already offered sanctuary to thousands of people who have fled Ukraine and we have seen the highest number of applications, visas issued and arrivals per head of population of any of the four UK nations.
The challenge faced by national and local government and our partners to support people with housing need is on the scale of the pandemic. It requires leadership, partnership, carefully targeted action and early intervention to prevent households reaching crisis point.
The Scottish Government has already allocated almost £3 billion this year to support people in Scotland with rising prices and we continue to do more. The measures announced in A stronger and more resilient Scotland, the Scottish Government’s programme for government 2022 to 2023, are designed to mitigate the impact of the crisis, reduce hardship for those most in need and support people to stay in their homes. We know people need clear advice on their housing rights and information on the range of support available. The Scottish Government launched a new website on cost of living support, providing information on the financial help available to people in Scotland at the end of September 2022.
Scotland’s vision in Ending Homelessness Together is that everyone has a home that meets their needs and homelessness is ended. We know that the best way to end homelessness is to prevent it from happening in the first place, which is why we are introducing new homelessness prevention duties as part of the forthcoming housing bill.
In spite of the very challenging financial context, Scotland continues to make steady progress towards ending homelessness. We can feel proud of what has been accomplished in the last 12 months.
We have delivered nearly 113,000 affordable homes since 2007 and have started work towards our next target of delivering 110,000 affordable homes by 2032.
We have significantly increased investment in anti-poverty measures such as the Scottish Child Payment and discretionary housing payments – evidence of our resolve to tackle the root causes of homelessness and provide direct financial support to people.
We have taken important steps towards improving rights for tenants and for people at risk of homelessness. We carried out consultations on new homelessness prevention duties and a new deal for tenants and we published an important report aimed at national and local government, social landlords and specialist housing providers on how to prevent homelessness for former armed forces personnel.
We have helped more people with high support needs into settled housing. Local authorities have now provided more than 1,000 Housing First tenancies across Scotland.
We are seeing a declining trend in repeat homelessness and the number of people sleeping rough in Scotland continues to fall.
These are important achievements but we need to step up efforts in other areas. While most local authorities are managing to reduce the use of temporary accommodation, we know that there are far too many households with children in temporary accommodation. This shows us that the impacts of the pandemic are still being felt, particularly in our largest cities, and that some people are waiting much longer for the stability of a settled home. We are determined to reverse this trend and are working with an expert group to find solutions.
The Scottish Government and local authorities will do everything possible to help people through these exceptionally difficult times. This will mean making difficult choices and focusing on the immediate response to the cost of living crisis. Taking targeted action now will help build a stronger and more resilient Scotland and allow us to continue with our ambition to end homelessness for good.
Councillor Maureen Chalmers, COSLA Spokesperson for Community Wellbeing
I welcome this Ending Homelessness Together annual report. Local authorities, as a sphere of government and as major landlords, manage a significant proportion of social housing across Scotland.
As well as being local strategic housing authorities seeking to improve supply and the overall condition of housing stock, local authorities play a critical role in preventing and alleviating homelessness.
Homelessness can happen to anyone in a local community and councils work tirelessly to address this injustice. The last thing any local authority wants is for people to be sleeping rough on the streets or living in temporary accommodation any longer than is absolutely necessary.
It has been encouraging to see progress made in the annual report with our key partners, the Scottish Government. I also commend the excellent work by individual local authorities. That said, there is a great deal of work to be done and further challenges due to Scotland’s increasingly pressurised housing system.
I am heartened to see that the findings of the extensive Scottish Government/COSLA prevention of homelessness duties consultation show widespread support for the consultation’s proposals from all partners.
Early intervention and prevention are crucial to avoid people becoming homeless. Public bodies and agencies working in partnership can help tackle homelessness more effectively, as well as address the various underlying causes that can result in repeat homelessness, such as addiction, domestic abuse or mental health issues.
In the months and years ahead, a shared responsibility across all partners will be of great value, especially given the homelessness challenges that have emerged in recent months, such as cost of living pressures and displaced Ukrainian people fleeing their war torn country.
I look forward to continued close partnership working between local government, the Scottish Government and other key partners to address future housing and homelessness challenges together over the next year.
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