Ministerial Oversight Group on Homelessness minutes: March 2024

Minutes from the ministerial oversight group on homelessness on 20 March 2024.

Attendees and apologies

  • Paul McLennan (PM), MSP, Minister for Housing, Chair
  • Christina McKelvie (CM), MSP, Minister for Drugs & Alcohol Policy
  • Joe Fitzpatrick (JF), MSP, Minister for Local Government and Planning
  • Patrick Harvie (PH), MSP, Minister for Zero Carbon Buildings, Active Travel and Tenants' Rights
  • Graeme Dey (GD), MSP, Minister for Higher and Further Education; and Minister for Veterans
  • Maree Todd (MT), MSP, Minister for Social Care, Mental Wellbeing and Sport
  • Emma Roddick (ER), MSP Minister for Equalities, Migration and Refugees
  • Hilary Third (HT), Head of self-harm policy and distress interventions 
  • Janine Kellett (JK), Homelessness Unit
  • Pamela McBride (PMB), Homelessness Unit
  • Olivia Sharkey (OS), Homelessness Unit


  • Siobhian Brown, MSP, Minister for Victims and Community Safety
  • Natalie Don, MSP, Minister for Children, Young People and Keeping the Promise
  • Jenni Minto, MSP, Minister for Public Health and Woman’s Health

Items and actions

PM welcomed everyone and thanked them for joining the third meeting of the Ministerial Oversight Group on Homelessness. 

PM reminded the group that, as we are aware from previous meetings, homelessness is not simply a housing issue. In the case of young people, the response to a risk of homelessness/homelessness needs to be more than only housing to support a healthy transition into adulthood.

PM passed to OS for an update on actions. OS highlighted the action log noting it is a live document which should be used to enhance collaboration. The actions are ongoing. Good progress has been made to date, further updates will be sought at future meetings. OS suggested Ministers and officials revisit the action log regularly. Actions can be found in the Ministerial Oversight Group on Homelessness minutes: December 2023.

MT commented that she is happy about the approach to the actions. They do present a great opportunity to work differently to better meet the needs of people experiencing homelessness alongside other disadvantages. It is important to maintain momentum, and to keep reflecting on the actions, recognising that they will take time to deliver. 

PM introduced Kate Polson (KP) and Lara Balkwill (LB) from the Rock Trust, and Shea Moran (SM) from Aff the Streets, the national youth steering group for the A Way Home Scotland Coalition. 


KP discussed some of the youth specific issues young people experiencing homelessness encounter, such as the combination of low paid employment, less savings and difficulty obtaining references for renting properties. 

KP highlighted the need to focus on more than just housing, and identified schools as being a good opportunity for early intervention and engagement. The need for a ‘family first’ and ‘staying put’ approach to prevention was also highlighted. Young people think differently to adults and their ability to judge risk may be different. We therefore need a trauma informed, and youth specific response.

SM set out the progress to date, mentioning the care leavers and youth homelessness prevention pathways and commending South Lanarkshire for their good practice in implementing the pathways as intended. 

A Way Home Scotland and the Rock Trust are currently surveying LAs for a third time to gauge progress and are working to support pathway implementation across the country.

LB then discussed next steps. The Rock Trust intend to publish a report by Autumn on the progress of implementing both the care leavers and young people pathways, and setting out reflections on how that progress has impacted homelessness statistics. The report will also flag examples of best practice, identify gaps and suggest how gaps can be bridged, linking to the planned homelessness prevention duties. The report will look at youth specific prevention projects and the Upstream project. 

KP closed by reminding Ministers that each part of the system needs to adapt to support young people and there are actions each Minister can take to progress this. 


PM asked officials to reflect on what their stakeholders can do to prevent youth homelessness. 

CM acknowledged that a safe home can create the springboard for better health and wellbeing and identified lots of areas within her portfolio that would be relevant to this work. CM asked if there is anything the housing and homelessness sector is picking up in the form of trends, be it geographically or otherwise, that ministers should be aware of, and can pick up in their efforts to support young people. 

KP responded that the hotspots are quite fluid and can therefore change, but better data could assist. Partly as a result of youth homelessness being hidden from national statistics, it can be hard to measure. As hotspots aren’t always predictable, the Rock Trust are looking at universal approaches. If data improves, they will be able to target better. 

JK noted young people may not want to live alone and asked if this is reflected in Housing First for Youth (HF4Y). KP confirmed that they didn’t have any young people sharing HF4Y accommodation, but they did have people moving during the process, for example if they met a partner or moved for work, so there was flexibility offered. The Rock Trust do also provide shared housing and support young people to enter flat shares through the rent deposit scheme where appropriate. KP commented that the approach in Finland was that the HF principles were applied to everyone and that for some people the support that they need to resettle would be short term and minimal and others would be longer term and intensive, but everyone should have access to all of the housing options. 

HT asked how mental health services are reflected in the care leavers and youth homelessness pathways. SM and KP referred to people with multiple/complex needs and HT wanted some more information on how that is defined and whether it aligns with the Hard Edges Scotland definition. KP said they looked at how Housing First was applied in America then adjusted it for young people. The report can be found on the Rock Trust's webpage. KP also discussed the issue of young people ‘ageing out’ of Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) and the difficult transition between adult’s and children’s services. 

From a mental health and social care perspective, MT is keen to work across portfolios to progress any of these issues. MT reflected on the known issues with primary care, which may need more direction and MT is happy to discuss this with Cabinet Secretary for NHS Recovery, Health and Social Care. MT is also happy to hear ideas on how the transition from child to adult services can be improved, commenting that mental ill health is both a cause and consequence of poverty and has close links to homelessness. She also reflected on how the National Care Service has sparked debate around children’s social care, recognising an integrated approach is needed. 

MT reflected on her time working as a mental health pharmacist and how she saw people tipped into destitution. Home and community is crucial to good health in general. MT suggested a visit to Albyn Housing Society for PM. 

KP commented that we can’t get good education and health outcomes without stable housing, which can currently require a young person to declare themselves as homeless. The Upstream pilot which is currently underway is operating over different local authority areas, and the Rock Trust hope this will flag how homelessness in rural locations presents different challenges.

JF welcomed this, stating the importance of seeing examples of good practice coming from rural areas too. ER also reminded the group that there are geographical variations in the delivery of services and we therefore cannot simply replicate models across the country. 

JK informed the group that officials within the homelessness unit are looking at the homelessness budget to identify opportunities to combine resources and work more collaboratively with other policy areas across the Scottish Government. 

Finally, CM mentioned the action that the former Minister for Drugs had agreed to at the last meeting. CM recognises that outcomes are better with a stable housing situation and this is precursor for better outcomes so CM will reflect on how all of this fits together in her new role. 

AOB and Close

OS confirmed a  note of the meeting will be circulated to Ministerial attendees. Officials will then link up to progress actions. OS invited attendees to send additional thoughts or comments via email. 

PM thanked everyone for their attendance. 



  • KP to share upstream and HF4Y information
  • Links to the youth and care leaver prevention pathways to be sent to the group
  • Minute to go out to all POs and Ministers to respond with any reflections or actions they want to take forward. 
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