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

Minutes from the meeting of the group on 30 November 2022.

Attendees and apologies

  • Matt Downie, co-chair and Crisis
  • Ewan Aitken, co-chair and Cyrenians
  • Matthew Busher, Kingdom Group Housing Association
  • Elizabeth Cooper, Scottish Prison Service
  • Kate Polson, Rock Trust
  • Angela Keith, SOLACE
  • 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
  • Pat Togher, Glasgow City Health and Social Care Partnership
  • Avril McKay, Public Health, NHS Lothian
  • Laura Hoskins, Community Justice Scotland
  • Angela Leitch, Public Health Scotland
  • Ann Carruthers, West Housing Options Hub / Renfrewshire Council
  • Eileen McMullan, Scottish Federation of Housing Associations
  • 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

Also in attendance

  • Rhiannon Sims, secretariat and Crisis
  • Callum Chomczuk, Chartered Institute of Housing
  • Jo Ozga, Scottish Women’s Aid
  • James Mullaney, Crisis
  • Neil Cowan, Crisis
  • Jules Oldham, Cyrenians
  • Ursula Hofeldt, Cyrenians
  • Janine Kellett, Scottish Government
  • Pamela McBride, Scottish Government


  • Alison Bavidge, Scottish Association of Social Workers
  • Sherina Peek, ALACHO
  • Nicky Miller, Turning Point Scotland 

Items and actions

Welcome and introduction

Matt Downie welcomed members to the meeting and clarified the aims of the meeting, namely to consider how to create a culture of prevention, within housing and homelessness and more widely in terms of how others can prevent homelessness.

Approval of minutes from previous meeting

Matt Downie confirmed 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

  • Rhiannon Sims provided an overview of the papers shared ahead of the meeting. 
  • In relation to paper 3c, which provided an update on the Scottish Government and COSLA’s recent announcement, Pamela McBride added that her team would be in touch in the new year around specific proposals in the Prevention Review Group, specifically on some areas of disagreement, to make sure the approach doesn’t have unintended consequences. 
  • In relation to paper 3e, which sets out a proposal for lived experience engagement, members of the group offered to help recruit participants for focus groups. Liz Cooper offered to carry out focus groups in a prison/prisons. David Ramsay stressed the importance of getting into communities to engage with people we are not typically connected with. Kate Polson suggested Shea Moran who leads on the ‘A Way Home’ work could help facilitate with young people who aren’t already in the system. Gordon McRae offered to facilitate engagement with peers in Shelter, including at the more acute end with multiple support needs, and with another group who have no support needs but could be more readily prevented and diverted. Eileen McMullan suggested approaching housing associations involved in homelessness prevention work for families, which SFHA could help with. Karen Swift offered to engage with clients from Turning Point Scotland. Matthew Busher offered to facilitate access to targeted groups, for example work across local authorities, which could link in with existing work. Pat Togher offered to facilitate engagement with people upstream, before they are in the system. 


  • Rhiannon Sims to arrange next steps with group members who had offered to help recruit participants 

Guest speaker Professor Niven Rennie, Director, Scottish Violence Reduction Unit (VRU)

Matt Downie welcomed and introduced Niven Rennie, Director of the Scottish VRU, which has pioneered adopting a public health approach to violence, and encourages the application of alternative strategic thought to long term problems. 

Niven explained that 1% of Scottish population experience 65% of all violent crime, live in poorer communities, face addictions, poor health and poor educational outcomes and shorter life expectancy.  Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) contribute to people committing offences, therefore to reduce violence we have to stop ACEs or ensure people have resilience to deal with them and train officers to recognise ACEs. 

We need to support people in a joined up way, with love, compassion and understanding, not view them as unrelated issues (drug addictions, homelessness and so on). The Christie Commission has provided us with a roadmap. 

Group discussion

A group discussion followed covering themes of resourcing; public attitudes and challenging stereotypes; the perception that public money is spent in silos; changing attitudes within the workforce; challenges to implementing the recommendations of the Christie Commission and how partnership working was boosted during the pandemic. 

Culture change across wider public bodies

The task in breakout groups was to consider what drives culture change in different sectors. The group considered the following questions:

  • what drives change in your sector (statutory duties, outcomes frameworks, targets)?
  • who has the power to make change happen and how? Who are the relevant and influential actors in each sphere?
  • what specific activities would help to deliver these changes?
  • what, if any, are the barriers for change in your sector?
  • what is the most useful language to use amongst wider public bodies, when talking about preventing homelessness?

Culture change within the homelessness sector

Jules Oldham gave a presentation on examples of early intervention work already taking place at a local and national level. The group was asked consider:

  • how we build on and learn from existing interventions and practice in the implementation of the new prevention system? 
  • what else is needed to go beyond the reach of existing interventions?
  • what are the dependencies for delivering the prevention duties? 

Matt Downie said the prevention duty in Wales has had limited effect and did not go far enough. 


  • We will unpack what an upstream prevention duty might look like in Wales in a later meeting. 

Jules Oldham said Housing to 2040 offers a starting point which Wales didn’t have, and puts wellbeing and housing elements at the heart.

Liz Cooper detailed the challenges of implementing and embedding the SHORE standards to date.  She said Scottish Prison Service is aware of the role of preventing homelessness and the need for release management policies to ensure partners have relevant information from the outset and throughout an individual’s sentence.  She acknowledged that remands and unplanned liberation from courts are more difficult to manage. 

Eileen McMullan agreed there is a stronger awareness in the justice system of homelessness now, but stressed that that was not necessarily true in other sectors such as health. She emphasised the need for awareness raising to ensure everyone understands what is meant by ‘at risk of homelessness’ and what to do to support that. 

Matt Downie said there is good practice in the Pathway in England which we can learn from.

Gordon Macrae said we need to be clear what ‘a culture of prevention’ means and illustrate what we want to shift. He stressed that it is important to ask ourselves when we talk about culture change, where is the culture currently wrong? He gave examples of culture ‘going wrong’, such as making policies and expecting someone else to deliver them; shifting responsibility but not responsibility for design and asking agencies to deliver more with less. Thinking about wider pressures and context, he said there is no sense in ‘best practice’ when there is no resource.

Kate Polson said we need to move away from bad habits of using systems we already have instead of changing them, and make a culture where people see homelessness and prevent it as ‘their business’, not just the business of frontline workers or newly designed programmes. She stressed that this requires a massive cultural shift, which will require teacher education to be changed as well. 
David Ramsey said we should secure buy-in from anchor organisations in the community and suggested that we do not look on funding as a fundamental barrier. 

Ewan Aitken explained that as culture relates to how people see themselves within an ecosystem, we need to show people they are participants while moving away from a blame culture. We can do this by providing training, support, affirmation, feedback and resources. 

Liz Cooper agreed, saying in the prison context, there may be a fear of engaging by frontline staff because they don’t understand how prisons work. This can be prevented by  asking the right questions at the right time by the right people. 

Jules Oldham encouraged the group to be aspirational and to think big, remembering that most people who work with people like people, so we can build on that. 

Matt Downie reminded the group that outrage can generate culture change, and that we should not to lose the power in front of us. 


Matt Downie closed by saying that as the discussion was so wide-ranging, the secretariat will take away an action to draw out the conclusions from this discussion and present on this at a future meeting. 

Back to top