Homelessness Prevention and Strategy Group minutes: March 2020

Minutes of the Homelessness Prevention and Strategy Group meeting held on March 2020.

Attendees and apologies

  • Kevin Stewart MSP (Minister for Local Government, Housing and Planning; Co-Chair)
  • Joe FitzPatrick MSP (Minister for Public Health, Sport and Wellbeing)
  • David Duke, Street Soccer Scotland
  • Gordon MacRae, Shelter Scotland
  • Sally Thomas, SFHA
  • Lorraine McGrath, Streetwork/Simon Community
  • Angie Wood, Interim Chief Officer for Aberdeenshire Health and Social Care Partnership
  • Neil Hamlet, NHS Fife
  • Janice Stevenson, LGBT Youth Scotland
  • Sabrina Galella, A Way Home Scotland/Rock Trust Coalition
  • Shea Moran, Aff the Streets
  • John Mills, ALACHO
  • Kathy Cameron, COSLA
  • Peter Barry, SOLACE
  • Gavin Yates, Homeless Action Scotland
  • Grant Campbell, Crisis Scotland
  • David Pentland, Change Team
  • Catriona MacKean, Scottish Government
  • Janine Kellett, Scottish Government
  • Graham Thomson, Scottish Government
  • Melanie Goodfellow, Scottish Government
  • Matt Howarth, Scottish Government
  • Mark Lawson, Scottish Government
  • Maggie Page, Scottish Government
  • Roddy Duncan, Scottish Government


  • Cllr Whitham, COSLA (Community Wellbeing Spokesperson; Co-Chair)
  • Jon Sparkes, Crisis

Items and actions

1. Welcome and introductions

Mr Stewart welcomed Angie Wood and David Pentland to the group. He invited members to introduce themselves and give a brief overview of the organisations they represent and the work they do to support the delivery of the Action Plan.

2.   COVID-19 outbreak

Roddy Duncan gave an update on the current state of play but reminded everyone it is a constantly evolving situation and that we are still in containment phase, meaning there are only restrictions on those who have tested positive or are at risk. The Scottish Government is working with all other UK administrations for advice, planning and strategy development and further UK Government scientific advice is expected in the days following this meeting.

The advice issued by NHS Scotland remains in place, with further considerations being given to social distancing strategies, through self and household isolation. There is also emergency legislation currently being drafted and significant planning for NHS and other public services to respond if we have to start caring for large numbers of people.

Homelessness team officials are currently assessing for vulnerable groups, particularly looking at needs for those sleeping rough and for the wider homeless population. Officials are continuing to engage with local authorities and frontline services in the main cities to ensure resilience plans are up to date and consistent advice is available for all partners. We are considering what needs to be different for the rough sleeping population, recognising different needs and underlying health conditions and that self-isolation and other measures, e.g. hand washing, are not possible for this population. Mr Stewart thanked officials and partners for their swift response and ongoing work to address this.

Concerns were raised around access to hand sanitiser, as supplies were starting to run low. Questions were also raised about how and when decisions will be made on prioritisation of needs and resources. SG officials agreed to consider this and encourage all organisations and partners to share resources, support each other and prioritise high risk areas like shelters, hubs and access points. The minister asked officials to ensure that all local authorities and Health and Social Care Partnerships are engaging with frontline services and volunteers. Neil will suggest that this issue is raised as an agenda item at the four CMOs’ weekly call with health boards to ensure there is a joined up approach to these issues.

ALACHO has put out a call to local authorities on what they actions they are taking, with responses so far suggesting all are working on business continuity plans. They will also continue to liaise with Registered Social Landlords and the voluntary sector.  John Mills advised they would be able to share Fife Council’s plan in the coming days. 

Mr Stewart asked members to share as much intelligence as possible so that officials can feed through to the central SG team handling the outbreak.

Members asked for further advice around various scenarios and asked for consistent advice to be made available across the sector. The group agreed that the sector must work together to prioritise safe spaces for people. Angie advised that Local Resilience Partnerships would cover a lot of these concerns and would be stood up at the right time. Mr Stewart said he expected all of this to be covered by these Local Resilience Plans.


  • Homelessness team to liaise with COVID-19 response teams to ensure supplies, in particular hand sanitiser, can be provided to the frontline services working with people who are rough sleeping. (SG homelessness team)
  • Ensure Glasgow City Council/HSCP are communicating local advice to all frontline partners and voluntary organisations. (SG homelessness team)
  • Ensure all LAs are reviewing and sharing their business continuity plans with frontline partners and voluntary organisations. (SG homelessness team)
  • Issue to be included as part of the Local Resilience Partnerships planning in every area, particularly in the cities where rough sleeping risk is the highest. (SG homelessness team)
  • This issue should be raised as an agenda item at CMO weekly call and Health boards weekly call. Senior medical officers have already reached out to NHS boards and will discuss this further as part of the Incident Management Team meeting with NHS Boards and Healthcare Protection Scotland. (Neil Hamlet)
  • The homelessness sector should work together to provide safe spaces for people experiencing homelessness and rough sleeping throughout this period. (HPSG members)
  • It will be important to give clear advice to people affected by homelessness once public services, including emergency temporary accommodation, are closed. There was a call to work in partnership with advice services including Shelter and Citizens Advice in particular. (SG homelessness team)
  • Housing to continue to gather as much intelligence as possible to feed through to COVID-19 response team. (SG homelessness team)

3. Health and homelessness

Mark Lawson and Maggie Page introduced the paper and highlighted background, current work, the wider landscape; and set out proposed direction of travel to engage drugs and alcohol services and other partners, including health, in our ambition to prevent, tackle and end homelessness and rough sleeping.

Officials highlighted that drug deaths are steady but there is a significant increase year on year. The next meeting of the Drugs Death Taskforce (DDTF) is to be held by the end of March. They are also looking at how to engage with the criminal justice sector, improving data to support the frontline and considering approaches to tackling multiple and complex needs. The DDTF subgroup are looking at this issue and want to include a specific action on how to tackle this amongst the homeless population. In addition, they will be looking at how to include the voice of lived experience when developing the Inclusion Scotland Fund. Members suggested it may be beneficial to link in with the Change Team through David Pentland. 

David highlighted that the care available for people with multiple and complex needs isn’t working as it should in some areas, which is preventing people from getting out of the cycle. Both David and Gordon raised concerns about the lack of investment in the workforce, particularly in skills for assertive outreach teams. It was noted that conditionality of access to services for those with complex needs is an issue that comes up repeatedly. Mr Stewart suggested looking at what good practice exists and share this across the sector.  Local mapping would help to understand this.  

Simon Community Scotland is currently trialling technology in Ayrshire that detects signs of an overdose through bed monitors and a radar model that looks at respiration rates. This then alerts staff and allows them to target their support to those at highest risk. 

Members highlighted that the biggest gap is in a post overdose response and that a compassionate, safe space post overdose would be the best solution to supporting those who have suffered an overdose. The current option is an acute response, but this does not address the underlying issue or offer the right care. The best response is early intervention. David Duke reminded members that support on the journey to recovery will never be led by just one organisation and that the answer must involve everyone. 

Lorraine highlighted that addressing mental health issues is key and that empowering frontline workers to respond better would be imperative to changing our response and tackling the issue. These messages are there at national level but the local systems are not reflecting this.  Every overdose is an opportunity for a positive intervention and we need to show people that their lives matter. Mr Stewart suggested that the DDTF also consider looking at the work being undertaken through the Victoria project in Kirkcaldy.

Mr FitzPatrick highlighted that we have to find a way to ensure people know their rights and getting rid of barriers to accessing services is key. Mr Stewart suggested that Ruth Robin's work to understand costs to the system of our failure to meet demand could inform this. 

A number of members asked for additions and changes to be made to the paper and have this re-circulated. These include making links with justice, Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) and education colleagues. Mr Stewart asked for this to be updated by officials and for Mark Lawson to come back to the next meeting of this group to report back.


  • Homelessness team to support links with change team and DDTF. (SG officials)
  • DDTF to link with John Mills re: the work being undertaken in Kirkcaldy. (SG officials)
  • DDTF to connect with Ruth Robin for more information on her work. (SG officials)
  • Paper to be updated and re-circulated. (SG officials)

4.  Change Team update

Mr Stewart invited David Pentland to give members an update on the work the Change Team has been undertaking in recent weeks. David said the group were starting to gel and looking at what changes they want to see in preparation for the roadshow that is planned. 

David talked members through the paper and the seven key messages the team will be highlighting during the roadshows. They are looking forward to getting a Scotland-wide perspective on these messages. Mr Stewart thanked David for his update. 

Sabrina highlighted that the Change Team had raised that HPSG and its purpose was not as widely known as expected and we need to consider ways to promote our message and increase visibility of our work. Peter Barry suggested publishing a blog and better promotion following the publication of the minutes of each meeting.  Officials will take this forward. 

Shelter and Crisis welcome the mention of continued importance of advocacy as we transition. Mr FitzPatrick also suggested that there may be potential links with the Change Team and the Scottish Rights Recovery Forum. Officials will ensure the connections are made. 


  • Officials will take forward the work regarding a blog and promoting the published minutes. (SG homelessness team)
  • Officials to ensure Change Team and Scottish Rights Recovery Forum links are made. (SG homelessness team)

Following the break, Mr Stewart advised members that the quarterly housing statistics had been published.  More information can be found here: https://www.gov.scot/publications/housing-statistics-scotland-quarterly-update-march-2020/.

5. 2020 priorities

Graham introduced the paper briefly as this had been circulated to members ahead of the meeting to allow feedback to be sent to officials in advance. 

Crisis raised concerns about pausing some workstreams as it was expected that all of the actions in the Action Plan would be delivered as a whole. They offered to support some of the areas and said they would welcome a conversation with officials to get a better understanding of what would be expected.  It was highlighted that the local implementation and prioritisation isn't being paused.

Shelter Scotland advised that it is particularly concerned about pausing the work on the SHORE standards and wider prevention work. Gordon said he would welcome a clearer rationale for the decision to pause certain workstreams and an understanding of how it fits together as an integrated plan.  He said that Shelter could also lend support to progressing some of this work. It would help if officials could distinguish between policy development, which means the sector can help, and implementation, which would be led by SG officials. 

There were offers from a number of members on other work that could be undertaken and these have been noted by officials. Mr Stewart reminded members that a pause does not mean a stop and that when things change the work would resume. Undertaking everything could mean we do not do justice to the work, but reassured members that discussions around this work were continuing. He asked Janine and officials to discuss this with all members. 

Shelter also raised their concerns about the timing of the Glasgow review and asked for more information about the coordination with SHR. Marion Gibbs from the homelessness team can provide members with an update ahead of the next meeting.  


  • Officials will update the paper that was circulated to members to provide a clearer overview of the interdependencies. (SG homelessness team)
  • Officials will meet with members to discuss this further and address any concerns. (SG homelessness team)
  • Marion will provide members with an update on the progress of the Glasgow review.

6. Updates

Verbal updates were provided on the recent RRTP subgroup meeting, the prevention fund and third sector bid fund. 

John Mills gave a quick overview of the recent RRTP subgroup meeting and advised members that Andrina Hunter had now joined from Inverclyde HSCP. The subgroup had also signed off the pro-forma for annual monitoring of activities, including a statement of how finances have been used against priorities set out in each plan. Finally, he talked about the successful RRTP coordinators/leads event in Perth and the subgroup agreed that it would be helpful to continue this twice a year. The subgroup have also now began to share their learning with the Welsh HARSAG. 

Sally Thomas presented a refined proposal of the Registered Social Landlords Prevention Fund to the group, with members content with the proposals. Sally advised that this was aligned with prevention of child poverty and homelessness prevention and that the learning drawn from Newcastle City Council's approach meant there was a focus on finding vulnerability instead of waiting for it to appear.

Finally, Graham gave members a brief update on the progress of the third sector bid fund.  CORRA is currently in the process of assessing the bids and will make recommendations to officials in the coming weeks so that advice can be given to Mr Stewart for final decisions to be agreed.  Graham did advise that the scheme is oversubscribed. 


  • Officials will prepare a paper to be shared with the team leading on the Local Governance Review. (SG Homelessness team and HPSG members)
  • Officials will provide HPSG members with a short paper on the context and background of the Local Governance Review. (SG Homelessness team)

7. AOB 

The actions and minutes from the previous meeting were agreed as accurate. 

Lorraine asked if the Minister for Mental Health could join the next meeting. 

Catriona gave a quick update to members about the women in homelessness working group that was convened on 5 March by the Cabinet Secretary. She asked members to provide officials with any topics or questions they would like to raise with this group. It was confirmed to the group that this work is separate to the work on the Domestic Abuse Prevention Pathway and considers the whole picture, not just a specific group. Mark Lawson agreed to provide a report on drug related deaths amongst women so this could be circulated to the group. 

Mr Stewart also asked the group about an issue he had identified on twitter relating to young LGBT people being asked to provide a letter from their parents to their local authority that proves they are not allowed to return to their house. Members fed back that this is a longstanding issue that they are working to tackle in their organisations. 

The next meeting is scheduled to take place on Tuesday 9 June at the COSLA offices. 


  • Officials to invite the Minister for Mental Health to the next meeting. (SG homelessness team)
  • Mark to provide the homelessness team with the women and drug related deaths report.
  • Members to provide officials with topics or questions they would like to submit to the women in homelessness working group. (HPSG members)
HPSG 10 March 2020 Agenda
HPSG Homelessness and Substance Misuse paper 1
HPSG All in for Change paper 2
HPSG 2020 priorities paper 3
HPSG RSL HPF Update paper 4
HPSG Request for Proposals RSL HPF paper 5
HPSG RSL HPF Comms Strategy paper 6
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