Homelessness Prevention and Strategy Group: Prevention Task and Finish Group minutes - February 2023

Minutes from the meeting of the group on 28 February 2023.

Attendees and apologies

  • Ewan Aitken, co-chair and Cyrenians
  • Matthew Busher, Kingdom Group Housing Association
  • Sharon Egan, West Housing Options Hub
  • Elizabeth Cooper, Scottish Prison Service
  • Kate Polson, Rock Trust
  • Mike Callaghan, COSLA
  • Emma Doyle, Public Health Scotland
  • David Ramsay, Homeless Network Scotland (HNS)
  • Gordon MacRae, Shelter
  • Shea Moran, All in for Change Team (AifC)
  • Suzie Mcilloney, All in for Change Team
  • Sherina Peek, ALACHO
  • Avril McKay, Public Health, NHS Lothian
  • Eileen McMullan, Scottish Federation of Housing Associations
  • Karen Swift, Turning Point Scotland (attending in place of Nicky Millar)
  • Grant McPhail, Scottish Refugee Council
  • Michael Wood, Association of Directors of Education in Scotland
  • Pat Togher, Glasgow Council

Also in attendance

  • Rhiannon Sims, secretariat and Crisis
  • James Mullaney, Crisis
  • Neil Cowan, Crisis
  • Jules Oldham, Cyrenians
  • Ursula Hofeldt, Cyrenians
  • Ruth Whatling, Scottish Government


  • Matt Downie, co-chair and Crisis
  • Angela Leitch, Public Health Scotland (Emma Doyle attending in her place)
  • James Marple, Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh
  • Angela Keith, SOLACE
  • Laura Hoskins, Community Justice Scotland 

Items and actions

Welcome and introduction

Ewan Aitken welcomed members to the meeting and set out that the meeting would focus on homelessness prevention for specific groups we know to be at higher risk of homelessness. He reminded members that recommendations need to be specific and deliverable.  

Approval of minutes from previous meeting

Ewan Aitken confirmed no changes had been received to the minutes. The actions from the last meeting have been incorporated either at this meeting or will be at future meetings.

The minutes of the previous meeting were approved by the group.

Matters arising

Housing Bill 

Ewan Aitken gave a short update on the Scottish Government’s Housing Bill. Paper 3 gives an indication of the broad headlines to be included in the bill and the provisions which are intended to be included in primary legislation. 

Kate Polson noted that as the proposals for 16/17 year olds had been included in the Housing Bill update paper, Scottish Government will not be changing homelessness policy for this group. 

Emma Doyle asked what the balance is between legislation and supporting guidance. Ewan Aitken clarified that although there will be some changes in primary legislation, this may not be as much as hoped. He indicated the Scottish Government is wary about ‘reasonable steps’ being overly prescriptive, which may discourage services from thinking beyond those limited steps. 

Gordon MacRae said there will still be many opportunities to shape the bill through the further consultation work and that the big question is whether the Bill will come with resources. He asked whether there is any responsibility to include mental health support in the Bill.

Measurement task and finish group

Ruth Whatling provided an update on the measurement task and task group which met recently to discuss prevention. 

Meeting with Scottish Housing Regular (SHR)

Ewan Aitken provided an update on the chairs meeting with Michael Cameron and John Jellema to consider questions around measurement, accountability and a qualitative approach to understanding ‘ask’ and ‘act’. They also discussed the strategic group of regulators chaired by Audit Scotland, which SHR is a member of. 

Homelessness prevention for at-risk groups

Research shows that experience of homelessness is not randomly distributed – although poverty is central, there are specific groups at higher risk, and particular pathways into and out of homelessness:

  • Women experiencing domestic abuse and other forms of gender-based violence
  • Young people leaving the family home, and care experienced young people
  • People with complex needs and those who meet the definition of severe and multiple deprivation
  • Homelessness amongst non-UK nationals

Scottish Women’s Aid (SWA) have submitted a paper to the group on the relationship between domestic abuse and homelessness prevention. The report sets out a series of recommendations which SWA suggest need to be prioritised in the domestic abuse pathway. 

The group broke into groups to discuss recommendations on the above-mentioned pathways and considered the following questions:

  • for the new prevention duties to prevent homelessness for this group, what needs to be prioritised / put in place?
  • what recommendations have already been made in relation to each pathway, which should be implemented for the new approach to work?

Refining the emerging themes into recommendations

The chair noted that paper 5 consolidates themes from the discussion so far and ideas put forward by the group, which now need to be refined as recommendations.

Theme: appreciation of systems and structures in which we operate

  • Gordon MacRae asked whether the group should make recommendations around resources to meet increased demand
  • Jules Oldham noted there needed to be work to ensure there is the right offer for specific groups, like women experiencing homelessness

Theme: culture change

  • training and consistency of services is key, particularly across wider systems
  • the importance of anchor organisations in communities
  • culture needs to change so as not to automatically feed people through to homelessness system
  • clear roles are needed for each agency within ask and act
  • common messages for partner sectors around powers are needed
  • the implementation gap needs to be bridged in a practical way
  • new language needed

Theme: strategic planning

A need for accountability at all levels (corporate, strategic and governance) was suggested, as well as the need for cross-referencing prevention across legislation.

Theme: partnerships and referral pathways

A whole systems approach and a portal or service which provides relevant information to all partners is needed.

Theme: data sharing

Pat Togher suggested consistency and co-location of services is key, such as is being trialled in Glasgow.

Theme: training

Clarity is needed on who recommendations are for and training should be embedded so the workforce is all trained in same way. 

Train the trainer, the housing options toolkit and NHS trauma informed training toolkit were all suggested as good models.

Theme: guidance

Guidance needs to include consistency around Personal Housing Plans.

Theme: monitoring

Data sharing and how to do this so as to prevent re-traumatisation was discussed as well as the need to support people how and when they need it.

Theme: resources

It was noted that the sector cannot be asked to do more without growing the sector (capacity).


•    Secretariat will draft recommendations from today’s meeting and share ahead of next meeting. 


The chair closed the meeting by reminded the group of the remit, namely to embed a culture of prevention across public sectors and produce a phased programme of activities. He suggested that in the final meeting, the group create draft recommendations and work to finalise them. Resourcing will also be considered. 

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