Paul McLennan MSP, Minister for Housing
Councillor Maureen Chalmers, COSLA Spokesperson for Community Wellbeing
This annual report describes the progress made during the last year towards ending homelessness in Scotland.
The last year saw new leadership and a fresh start for the Scottish Government. It also saw local and national government in Scotland sign a landmark partnership agreement. The Verity House Agreement signals a more collaborative approach to delivering our shared priorities for the people of Scotland – priorities which include ending homelessness.
In our respective roles as COSLA Spokesperson for Community Wellbeing and Minister for Housing, we are fully committed to the vision in Ending Homelessness Together – that everyone has a home that meets their needs and homelessness is ended.
Councillor Maureen Chalmers:
“As COSLA Spokesperson for Community Wellbeing, I have been pleased to co‑chair the Homelessness Prevention and Strategy Group with the Housing Minister. This group oversees four task and finish groups to help improve our approach to addressing homelessness with some valuable work progressed on temporary accommodation and the prevention of homelessness.”
Paul McLennan, Minister for Housing:
“It was a great honour to be asked to take up a new role as housing minister in March 2023 and I am committed to giving housing and homelessness the support and attention it deserves. In the seven months since my appointment, I have met with a whole range of experts and people with lived and frontline experience of homelessness. I have heard moving personal stories from people who understand what works and I have been struck by the dedication and passion of those who work in the sector.
“Scotland wants to be a world leader when it comes to ending homelessness and we remain open to new ideas. As I found out during one of my very first engagements as a new minister, Glasgow is seen as a pioneer of Housing First in Europe. Turning Point Scotland imported the model from New York and the first Housing First pilot began operating in Glasgow in 2010. That innovative, collaborative spirit is Scotland’s strength.”
We are both rightly proud of Scotland’s reputation for tackling homelessness. We have one of the strongest legal safety nets in the world for people experiencing homelessness. But ending homelessness requires more than strong legislation. It requires a partnership approach to problem-solving and a willingness to listen, learn and improve.
Our fourth report in the series comes at a time of cost of living pressures; higher inflation, rents and interest rates; and the continuing conflict in Ukraine, which has led to thousands of refugees fleeing their homes to seek a place of safety. Scotland’s latest homelessness statistics mirror trends across the UK with more people making applications for homelessness assistance and many households spending far too long in temporary accommodation.
The last year has been difficult for the housing and homelessness sectors. The Scottish Housing Regulator’s thematic review on homelessness services warned of an emerging risk of systemic failure in homelessness services in some areas. SOLACE Scotland, which represents local authority chief executives, has highlighted the unsustainable pressure on local authority housing. It is clear that councils are making huge efforts to deliver services for people experiencing homelessness. We are committed to working together in the best way we can so that we can respond effectively to people affected by homelessness.
In spite of these very challenging circumstances, we have made important gains since our last annual report.
- We have delivered nearly 124,000 affordable homes, including over 87,000 social homes since April 2007, and the Scottish Government is investing £752 million this year in the Affordable Housing Supply Programme. We have so far delivered 13,354 of our 110,000 affordable homes target and the number of affordable homes completed in the last year is the highest annual figure since 2000.
- We remain focused on measures to tackle the social causes of homelessness. We are investing £405 million this year in the Scottish Child Payment to lift an estimated 50,000 children out of relative poverty.
- We are investing over £83 million in discretionary housing payments this year to mitigate the UK Government’s bedroom tax, benefit cap and the freeze to local housing allowance rates.
- We reached agreement with social landlords on below-inflation rent increases for 2023-24, which keeps social rents significantly below private market levels.
- We have extended measures to protect tenants and stabilise rents during the cost of living crisis.
- We have modified local connection rules so that people who are homeless have the freedom to settle where they choose.
- We have promised to reduce the use of temporary accommodation by 2026 and we have set out the action we will take to deliver on that commitment. This includes making £60 million available to support a national acquisition plan that will boost the supply of social and affordable housing.
- Local authorities have now provided close to 1,500 Housing First tenancies.
- We are committed to improving access to affordable rented homes. We have introduced greater regulation in short-term letting with a deadline of 1 October 2023 for hosts to sign up to the licensing scheme.
- Over 1,200 social rented homes have been brought back into use to help those fleeing the war in Ukraine.
- We have announced our intention to pilot a £500,000 ‘fund to leave’ to help women leave an abusive relationship.
- On 30 June 2023, an agreement to forge a stronger partnership between local and national government was agreed between COSLA and the Scottish Government. The Verity House Agreement sets out principles for working together to empower local
- communities, tackle poverty, transform the economy and provide high-quality public services.
- We have established a ministerial oversight group on homelessness to bring together ministers from across the Scottish Government to work in a joined up way to prevent and end homelessness.
- We are seeing a declining trend in repeat homelessness; a decrease in homelessness from the private rented sector; and reports of rough sleeping remain lower than pre-pandemic levels.
These are notable achievements but we still have far too many households in temporary accommodation. In the year ahead, our primary focus is on reducing that number.
We will press ahead with measures to increase housing supply and work in partnership to maximise the use of current housing stock. The Scottish Government will introduce new homelessness prevention duties this parliamentary year that will offer stronger protections than anywhere else in the UK. We will strengthen rights for tenants and offer greater security from eviction. We will bring forward a new human rights bill that will incorporate the right to adequate housing into Scots law within the limits of devolved competence.
Our ambition is for everyone in Scotland to have a safe, secure and affordable home. It is achievable. When national and local government work together on shared priorities, we can deliver better outcomes and we can end homelessness.
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