Homelessness and Rough Sleeping Action Group: recommendations

Recommendations for reducing rough sleeping this winter (2017).


The Homelessness & Rough Sleeping Action Group was established following renewed commitments in the Programme for Government on 5 September 2017.

The group have been asked to provide recommendations to the Scottish Government on the following four areas:

  • ways to minimise rough sleeping this winter
  • how to eradicate rough sleeping for good
  • ways to transform temporary accommodation
  • how to bring about an end to homelessness in Scotland

The Action Group met initially on 5 October 2017 and started work immediately on responding to the first action area. They have since met again on the 2 November 2017 and then on the 22 November 2017, when they agreed their recommendations on ways to minimise rough sleeping this winter.

The Action Group recommendations were submitted to Scottish Government Ministers, and were approved. This document sets out key details of the recommendations for this winter.

The group's work will continue as they move on to recommendations against the other action areas to end rough sleeping and homelessness for good.


The Action Group quickly established that reducing rough sleeping this winter is going to require a combination of increased capacity in emergency accommodation and increased coordination of support.

The recommendations of the Action Group are therefore to look across:

  • maximising the local Housing Options approach and flexibility in responses at local level
  • triage approaches and support based on prioritising those with highest need
  • by name lists for tracking and facilitating multi-agency working
  • personalised budgets as the last resort to support those with most acute, entrenched needs in a highly personalised, immediate way where everything else being tried has not worked for the person at risk of rough sleeping
  • assertive and empowered outreach through rapid staff training, deployment and an empowered culture
  • winter and emergency provision capacity including extreme weather measures

Recommendations focus on the main cities (Edinburgh, Glasgow, Aberdeen and Dundee) to ensure biggest impact for biggest numbers for the very short-term work.

The group recognise, however, that in the longer term there will be a need to engage with all areas of Scotland and furthermore that the short term measures put in place this Winter won't all feature in long term solutions, but will be fundamental to saving lives this winter.

Listening to people who have experienced and who are currently experiencing homelessness must be at the heart of recommendations. Work has already started through Glasgow Homelessness Network, following a commitment of funding from Crisis and staffing contribution from GHN.

This applies to all stages of the project, not just this winter but has been started immediately to ensure it informs the work of the group as soon as possible.

Key cross-cutting themes

Front-line experience and evidence suggests that successful interventions with the most entrenched rough sleepers this winter, including some who will not access night shelter provision, will require:

  • key front-line workers supported to utilise a rapid-triage approach based on use of a vulnerability, risk and prioritisation tool
  • suspending first-come, first-served principle to prioritise the most vulnerable and/or people sleeping rough
  • by name lists with multi-agency access, daily review and co-ordination to ensure holistic and dedicated focus on meeting needs of the most at risk
  • increased flexibility from statutory services to enable outreach and hub staff to call on support as and when it is needed and appropriate – eg homelessness assessments carried out at a begging pitch, Job Centre Plus staff accompanying outreach staff to address benefits issues

Summary of key recommendations

The group have considered a wide range of potential responses for this Winter, but have prioritised actions in the following areas on the basis of the ability to implement at speed; and the potential impact to minimise rough sleeping this Winter:

  • increase capacity in temporary and emergency accommodation in Edinburgh by expanding the winter shelter capacity from 60 to 75 and deliver an additional 12 rapid-access beds (for the winter only, and only accessed via street outreach workers) – total additional cost £142,000 - £25,000 covered by Social Bite
  • increase outreach capacity in Edinburgh, Glasgow and Aberdeen and further explore any need for additional capacity in Dundee – total additional cost £106,000 - £11,000 covered by Simon Community and £15,000 covered by Govan Law Centre
  • maximise use of Nightstop in Edinburgh and undertake discussion with statutory sector in Glasgow to agree how we implement Nightstop there by January 2018
  • maximise effectiveness of existing and additional outreach capacity by boosting multi-agency partnership working; adopting 'by name lists' approach and empowering front line workers through direct access to services and dedicated accommodation
  • making personal budgets and/or flexible emergency fund available for front line staff to employ where maximum flexibility is required to meet an individuals immediate housing needs, establishing trust and a basis on which further support can be provided towards a long term, sustainable successful outcome. This would only be the final resort, employed for those whom all other outreach and intervention fails. This would be treated as a pilot and the evidence gathered would inform development of thinking on the 'Housing First' approach – total additional cost £50,000
  • at times of extreme weather, ensure flexible provision is available in Edinburgh, Glasgow and Aberdeen for anyone who will not use winter night shelters, despite all efforts – total additional cost £15,000.
  • engaging with people who are currently homeless and people who have experience of homelessness – total additional cost £15,000 to be covered by Crisis, with staffing contribution from Glasgow Homelessness Network.

Other considerations

In addition, the group have considered a number of proposals which will have medium to long term impact. It is recommended that these initiatives are pursued in parallel with the priority actions above:

  • working through Housing Options hubs to support flexible collaboration across local authority boundaries to maximise available accommodation this Winter
  • social provision during the day – supporting wellbeing as far as possible within very difficult circumstances by producing an easily accessible map of existing free resources (for example providing food, activities, social interaction) that people can access during the day for company, engagement and potential routes into support services.
  • shifting public perceptions of homelessness, including making use of high profile events such as Sleep in the Park to communicate key messages on why homelessness happens and how it can be eradicated
  • systemic changes in relation to prison leavers and A&E users has been excluded from this phase on the basis that the time to operationalise would go beyond the winter, but improved support for those leaving prison to avoid rough sleeping this winter would be helpful.

At this time, the group have excluded a recommendation to seek resource from other statutory agencies to work directly alongside street outreach teams, for example Community Psychiatric Nursing capacity, welfare advice and support and other specialists – excluded based mainly on ability to operationalise quickly as well as cost. This is likely to be revisited in consideration of questions 2 and 3.

Membership of the Homelessness and Rough Sleeping Action Group

  • Jon Sparkes, Crisis (Chair)
  • Russell Barr, Former Moderator, Church of Scotland
  • Maggie Brunjes, Glasgow Homeless Network
  • Mike Dailly, Govan Law Centre
  • David Duke, Street Soccer
  • Suzanne Fitzpatrick, Heriot Watt University
  • Josh Littlejohn, Social Bite
  • Lorraine McGrath, Simon Community/Streetwork
  • Susanne Miller, Glasgow City Council
  • John Mills, Fife Council & ALACHO
  • Shona Stephen, Queens Cross Housing Association
  • Alison Watson, Shelter Scotland

Further information: Homelessness and Rough Sleeping Action Group

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