Homelessness Prevention and Strategy Group: Prevention Task and Finish Group minutes - December 2022

Minutes from the meeting of the group on 14 December 2022.

Attendees and apologies

  • Ewan Aitken, co-chair and Cyrenians
  • Kate Polson, Rock Trust
  • Mike Callaghan, COSLA
  • David Ramsay, Homeless Network Scotland (HNS)
  • Gordon MacRae, Shelter
  • Shea Moran, All in for Change Team (AifC)
  • Suzie Mcilloney, All in for Change Team
  • Avril McKay, Public Health, NHS Lothian
  • Laura Hoskins, Community Justice Scotland
  • Ann Carruthers, West Housing Options Hub / Renfrewshire Council
  • Eileen McMullan, Scottish Federation of Housing Associations
  • Emma  Doyle, Public Health Scotland (attending in place of Angela Leitch)
  • Karen Swift, Turning Point Scotland
  • Grant McPhail, Scottish Refugee Council
  • Michael Wood, Association of Directors of Education in Scotland
  • James Marple, Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh
  • Neil Cowan, Crisis (attending in place of Matt Downie)

Also in attendance

  • Rhiannon Sims, secretariat and Crisis
  • James Mullaney, Crisis
  • Jules Oldham, Cyrenians
  • Ursula Hofeldt, Cyrenians


  • Matt Downie, co-chair and Crisis
  • Angela Leitch, Public Health Scotland
  • Angela Keith, SOLACE
  • Matthew Busher, Kingdom Group Housing Association
  • Elizabeth Cooper, Scottish Prison Service 

Items and actions

Welcome and introduction

The chair welcomed members to the meeting and clarified the aims of the meeting, namely to consider how to create a culture of prevention, with a specific focus on systems design and strategic planning.

The chair provided an overview of the speakers and papers shared ahead of the meeting, confirming that the primary task is to make specific recommendations on what needs to be done to implement the duties.

Approval of minutes from previous meeting

The chair noted no changes had been received to the minutes. The actions from the last meeting have been incorporated either at this meeting or will be at future meetings.

The minutes of the previous meeting were approved by the group.

Matters arising

The chair thanked the members who had offered to facilitate engagement with people with lived experience. The secretariat would share a paper before the next meeting, summarising key themes from that discussion. 

Guest speaker Dee Fraser, CEO, Institute for Research and Innovation in Social Services (IriSS)

Dee Fraser delivered a presentation on ‘change at scale – strategies and systems’ which was followed by a group discussion.

Reflecting on interactions between the system and the structures in which we operate, Gordon MacRae argued that we need to not lose sight of the fact that we may be at risk of being overwhelmed by bigger structural dynamics.

Laura Hoskins noted that it is horizontal networks that drive change, not levers like legislative change. Training, guidance and advice are important, as is targeting the right people who are able to make changes. 

Dee Fraser commented that the idea you can make change needs to be balanced with an appreciation of the systemic barriers which prevent change.

Strategic planning

The chair introduced Paper 3 and the topic of strategic planning. The task was to stress test the Prevention Review Group recommendations which highlighted that prevention should not rest solely on homelessness services but be a shared public services responsibility. 

The importance of common training was raised, so people from different sectors have opportunity to have conversations about how to make the system work better.

Kate Polson reflected on how change has been achieved within the homelessness sector, giving the example of Housing First. She highlighted the importance of horizontal networks and having a common vision of the change you want to achieve.

Gordon MacRae expressed the opinion that the paper exposed an absence of national planning or robust strategy of how we plan and allocate resources to where there is the greatest need. There is instead a collection of local strategies which are not joined up in terms of where we need services and homes to be.

The group agreed that more strategies are not needed and that we should focus on making homelessness prevention relevant to all public bodies’ internal targets. We need to remember that even when we are thinking about partnerships and plans, we are still really talking about people. We need to focus on how to contribute to important shared outcomes and pay attention to what is happening on the ground, which drives priorities. 

Karen Swift noted the importance of thinking about how we work alongside other sectors/systems with regards to the language we use, and challenging the stigma around what homelessness is.

Gordon MacRae suggested that Scottish Ministers should allocate resources based on national commitments and the delivery plan for meeting those commitments. 

Jules Oldham reflected on the challenge and power of public buy-in, using the smoking ban as an example of where this worked effectively.

Ewan Aitken noted Scottish Government is not a body that cedes powers to local government, local authorities have intrinsic authority. Scottish Government can instruct local authorities but the statutory duties are applied to them, the local authority is not subsidiary.

Learning from England and Wales

Guest speakers Professor Peter Mackie, Cardiff University and Lisa Naylor, local authority practice consultant, Crisis,  delivered presentations on implementation of similar duties in Wales and England, identifying activities that contributed to successful  implementation at a national and local level. These included: 

  • leadership within local authorities which understood the principle behind the law
  • properly resourcing change 
  • joined up working at strategic level and inter-officer learning
  • shared customers and a joint front door approach, where people go the same place for services

Peter Mackie noted the proposed legislation in Scotland will go further than what was implemented in Wales or England because it is about collaboration and recognising the roles of other systems and services. 

Ewan Aitken reflected that one of the themes that emerged is the need for public bodies to invest in staff and support them to deal with changes that delivery will bring on a long-term basis, giving staff agency to manage and contribute to the change process. 

He noted that strategic planning was not mentioned as driving change in the English and Welsh examples, but that leadership and what was happening on the frontline was key.

Identifying recommendations

The chair encouraged members to brainstorm recommendations on the implementation of the new duties. The following recommendations were made:

  • collaboration and cross-sector learning
  • data sharing across sectors
  • common messaging about how prevention can help sectors reach their own targets
  • regular, collaborative joint training which is accredited, peer reviewed and reflective
  • clarity on what we want to achieve, where we are and how to get to the destination
  • a horizontal network established through a duty that all corporate functions of local authorities have systems in place 

It was noted that there is still a question as to whether the duty will apply to all public bodies or only specific public bodies. It was recognised that there may be initial increases in the numbers of homelessness cases and that this should be expected. 


The chair closed the meeting, noting the group has begun to draw up a list of what might be prioritised in final recommendations, and that prioritisation will be taken forward in future meetings. 

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