I am pleased to publish this statement, as required by section 33B of the Housing (Scotland) Act 1987, to set out the circumstances and the general criteria, by reference to which, Scottish Ministers would exercise the power, under section 33A of that Act, to modify the operation of local connection referrals in Scotland.
Scotland has some of the strongest rights in the world for anyone experiencing homelessness, but we know that too many people still struggle to access the accommodation and support they need. We need to continue to drive forward improvements to address this and deliver on our ambition of ending homelessness in Scotland.
Over the past decade, together with our partners we have brought about radical changes in homelessness and affordable housing. This has contributed to a significant reduction in homelessness applications. But we can and we will do more.
That is why, in 2018, we asked the Homelessness and Rough Sleeping Action Group (HARSAG) to recommend action to transform our systems and approach in order to realise our ambition to end homelessness. Last year, we also asked HARSAG to reconvene and provide recommendations on tackling homelessness during the coronavirus pandemic and in the longer term. Following this, in October 2020, we published, jointly with COSLA, an updated Ending Homelessness Together Action Plan that sets the direction for real and lasting change towards ending homelessness.
The pandemic has brought into sharp focus what more needs to happen to realise our ambition to end homelessness. The HARSAG recommendation on local connection can help us ensure that everyone who is at risk of homelessness, or is experiencing homelessness, has a safe, warm settled home of their own. Building on this, the Ministerial Statement will play a vitally important role in signposting when changes are required to modify the local connection referral process. This will be particularly helpful for those experiencing or threatened with homelessness, but also for monitoring the impact of any changes on the capacity of local authorities to deliver their duties.
I believe that the vast majority of people who are experiencing or threatened with homelessness are more likely to resettle successfully and avoid repeat homelessness if they live in an area of their choosing where they can access the specific services and support they require and where they are able to integrate successfully into the local community. Additionally, for some households, the ability to have a fresh start in another area can also be a key factor in helping to sustain a safe and settled home.
I am confident that, by using this statement as the reference point for modifying local connection, we can establish an effective and sustainable approach that helps reduce unnecessary barriers which can prevent people receiving the person-centred support they need, when and where they need it.
Kevin Stewart MSP
Minister for Local Government, Housing and Planning