Ministerial Oversight Group on Homelessness minutes: June 2024

Minutes from the Ministerial Oversight Group on Homelessness on 5 June 2024.

Attendees and apologies

  • Paul McLennan (PM), MSP, Minister for Housing
  • Christina McKelvie (CMK), MSP, Minister for Drugs & Alcohol Policy
  • Natalie Don (ND), MSP, Minister for Children, Young People and Keeping the Promise
  • Jenni Minto (JM), MSP, Minister for Public Health and Woman’s Health (also attending on behalf of Maree Todd, MSP, Minister for Social Care, Mental Wellbeing and Sport).
  • Siobhan Brown (SB), MSP, Minister for Victims and Community Safety 
  • Kaukab Stewart (KS), MSP, Minister for Equalities
  • Janine Kellett (JK), Homelessness Unit
  • Pamela McBride (PMB), Homelessness Unit
  • Olivia Sharkey (OS), Homelessness Unit
  • Hilary Third (HT), Head of self-harm policy and distress interventions 


  • Graeme Dey, MSP, Minister for Higher and Further Education; and Minister for Veterans
  • Ivan McKee, MSP, Minister for Public Finance
  • Maree Todd, MSP, Minister for Social Care, Mental Wellbeing and Sport

Items and actions


Paul McLennan (PM) welcomed everyone to the meeting and noted apologies. The previous minutes were accepted with no comments. 

PM highlighted that the inequalities that women face in housing and homelessness are inextricably linked to inequalities in other spheres. That is why housing and homelessness policies need to be well integrated with other policy areas that play a role in tackling women’s inequality, including social security, health, poverty, employment, violence against women and criminal justice.

Ministers were therefore encouraged to identify opportunities for joined up policy making. 

Presentation by Engender and Scottish Women’s Aid 

Cat Murphy (CM), director of Engender gave an overview on how gender inequality shapes women’s lives and flagged a lack of gender mainstreaming at the policy design stage in Scotland. She highlighted that although Equally Safe is a world leading practice, there isn’t a read across of policy coherence across other policy areas. 

Lucy Hughes (LH), policy manager, Engender flagged inequalities in housing access; that women are less likely to be homeowners; more likely to rent social housing; and spend a higher proportion of income on rent than men do. They are also more likely to be living with their children in overcrowded housing.

Jules Oldham (JO), Policy Manager at Scottish Women’s Aid (SWA) asked that the narrative around homelessness is changed to reflect that children are people too, noting that statistics should also reflect this. JO highlighted that the statistics do not include women who do not make an application to local authorities; that a woman’s housing situation may cause them to stay in an unsafe relationship to avoid rough sleeping; and that women take alternative actions, like sleeping on trains or in hospitals, to avoid sleeping rough. JO also spoke about the “transformational prevention” success of the Fund to Leave pilot. 

Lucy Hughes and Jules Oldham presented a list of ‘asks’ of government which included well-funded accommodation; the creation of gender-informed services; revisiting the ‘Improving Housing Outcomes’ 2020 paper; investment in research on women’s housing and homelessness; conducting EQIAs; ‘good and suitable’ temporary accommodation for women and children; allowing women to remain in a home and making the perpetrator move out; embedding Equally Safe in homelessness; applying a gendered lens to the Housing Bill and making the Fund to Leave a permanent national fund. 


Attendees stressed there are examples of joined up working across portfolios but acknowledged there is more to be done.

CMK noted the issues raised in the presentation are compounded if a woman has a drugs and alcohol dependency, or if a woman has been in prison. The barriers to safety and support are multi-layered. CMK noted progress is being made tackling problems and acknowledged that housing security is the anchor to allow women to access other services and enable stabilisation.

ND agreed we should be supporting women who have been through trauma of family breakdown and ensuring homelessness isn’t part of this. There is a need for a focus on children. 

JM cited the recent debate on the future of primary and secondary healthcare and stated as the current health service was designed by men for men, there is a need for healthcare to be considered through a gendered lens. JM also highlighted the Women’s Health Plan, which is currently in the final year. JM expressed a desire to work with Engender and SWA when the health plan is revised, stating ‘Equally Safe needs to become Equally Healthy’.

PM has visited Simon Community Scotland (SCS), who are doing incredible work with people who present with multiple needs. Potential ministerial visits to stakeholder organisations working to support people with multiple and complex needs was discussed.

JK reassured Engender that gender inequality is very much on the radar in homelessness, and the unit has had gender competency training. The Scottish Government have also commissioned research into housing insecurity and hidden homelessness, and the Housing (Scotland) Bill contains provisions around domestic abuse.

KS expressed a desire to be part of conversations on how to build on work taking place across portfolios. KS would like to hear more about the Fund to Leave, and the Minister for Housing offered to share the evaluation with her. 

CM said it was great to hear about pockets of work that has been done, but we need to look at areas like the economy where women are not forefront. KS highlighted the need for gendered budgeting. 

CMK agreed, flagging the Fund to Leave as an example of how giving individuals a small sum of money can make a difference and flagged the Saoirse project in Blantyre which is run jointly by the charities WASLER and Liber8, and funded by Equally Safe. This has been very successful in assisting women who have been affected by both substance use and domestic abuse.

JK noted that due to current budget constraints across all areas, consideration on co-funding initiatives is required. ND agreed joint funding is key but we should also be mindful of what is already working and what we need to keep funding. 

PM closed the meeting by highlighting that the Group has now been running for a year and will be reviewed. Officials will consider ‘what next’ for the group and how Ministers can maximise opportunities to drive change. Feedback to inform this is encouraged. 


  • Ministers and officials are invited to send any additional thoughts or comments on any of the items raised today, or any feedback on how the group is working so far, to Olivia Sharkey 
  • officials to share the fund to leave evaluation with ministers, when available
  • officials to consider follow up meetings with Engender and SWA as part of the wider workplan
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