The Scottish Government and the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (COSLA) welcome the report of the analysis of responses to the consultation on Prevention of Homelessness Duties. The independent report will now help inform next steps in introducing new duties as part of a forthcoming Housing Bill.
The analysis found strong support for both the principles set out in the consultation and for many specific proposals. The principles highlighted the need for shared public responsibility for preventing homelessness, earlier intervention across different systems and for more choice and control over housing options for people facing homelessness. The specific proposals included a new duty on public bodies to ‘ask and act’ about housing to prevent homelessness and on changes to existing legislation so local authorities can take action up to six months before homelessness happens.
The analysis shows there is widespread support for the package of proposals, which were described as comprehensive, transformational and welcome. Supporters recognised the importance of early intervention and enabling a joined-up approach to prevention. Respondents believed the proposals would strengthen existing practice, improve consistency, positively impact those at greater risk of homelessness, and noted the potential long-term savings or benefits to services which could result from a focus on prevention. Others stressed that implementing the proposals will require significant investment in public services, homelessness services and housing stock.
Since the consultation was launched in December 2021, we have started to see the impact of the cost of living crisis. We know that rising bills and living costs is affecting everyone, but there is a disproportionate impact on households on the lowest incomes, some of whom may find it increasingly difficult to manage rising bills in the coming months and we may see more people at risk of homelessness or seeking support from homelessness services. We have also seen the illegal war in Ukraine and displaced people seeking a place of safety and security with thousands of people offered sanctuary in Scotland. The challenges faced by national and local government and our partners to support people with housing need requires leadership, partnership, carefully targeted action and early intervention to prevent households reaching crisis point.
Shona Robison MSP, Cabinet Secretary for Social Justice, Housing and Local Government said, “This report has confirmed that there is strong support across different sectors in Scotland for our commitment to introduce new duties to prevent homelessness. This will be a significant step in our aim to end homelessness in Scotland, adding to the strong legal rights to housing that already exist for those that become homeless. We want to prevent individuals and families going through the trauma and disruption to lives that homelessness brings.
“We have enormous opportunities to better prevent homelessness in the future, building on much of the good practice that already exists, but I also recognise we have a strong responsibility to work with our partners, and with people who have experienced homelessness themselves, to ensure we get this right. While there is broad support for our approach, some specific proposals will require further discussion to ensure there are no unintended consequences.
"That is why we will be working closely with our partners and stakeholders as we work to turn proposals into legislation in the Housing Bill.”
Councillor Maureen Chalmers, COSLA Community Wellbeing Spokesperson, said:
‘‘I have been pleased that the findings of the Scottish Government/ COSLA prevention of homelessness duties consultation show broad and strong support for the consultation’s proposals from all partners.
"Early intervention and prevention are crucial to avoid people becoming homeless. Public bodies and agencies working in partnership can help tackle homelessness more effectively, as well as address the various underlying causes that can result in repeat homelessness, such as addiction, domestic abuse or mental health issues.
"I look forward to working with the Scottish Government and other key partners to ensure the proposals from the consultation become part of future housing legislation, albeit that they also reflect the concerns expressed during the consultation on matters such as resource constraints’’.
The Joint Scottish Government/COSLA consultation on proposed new Prevention of Homelessness Duties ran from December 2021 to April 2022. The Lines Between Ltd, were appointed in June 2022 to provide an independent analysis of the responses. The Prevention of homelessness duties: consultation analysis reviewed direct submissions to the consultation and input received through stakeholder consultation events organised by the Scottish Government and was published on the Scottish Government web-site on 29th September 2022.
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