The long-term strategy for tackling homelessness, Ending Homelessness Together, was updated by the Scottish Government and COSLA in 2020. Developed with expertise and input from across the housing and homelessness sector, the action plan focuses on preventing homelessness, responding quickly when homelessness happens and – critically – prioritising settled housing for all.
Excellent progress has been made in our work with local authorities and other partners to deliver on this plan but significant pressures in the last three years must be acknowledged. A global pandemic, a hard Brexit, a cost of living crisis and the war in Ukraine have undoubtedly created a more difficult environment in which to achieve our ambitions.
For the last decade, the Scottish Government has invested significantly in Discretionary Housing Payments to mitigate the damaging impact of UK Government welfare reforms, including the bedroom tax and benefit cap. In spite of our best efforts to help struggling households, the UK Government’s decision to freeze local housing allowance rates for three successive years makes the private rented sector unaffordable for many households and substantially increases the risk of homelessness.
We recognise that urgent action is needed now more than ever to build on our progress so far and ensure that everyone has a settled and affordable home that meets their needs.
Scotland is rightly proud of its strong housing and homelessness rights. The worst forms of homelessness are far lower in Scotland, and we have led the UK in providing affordable housing. Since 2007, Scotland has seen over 40% more affordable homes delivered per head of population than in England, and over 70% more than in Wales. However, we have record numbers of households in temporary accommodation and new build programmes cannot always keep pace with the demand for affordable housing.
The Scottish Housing Regulator’s thematic review on homelessness services in Scotland in February 2023 warned of an emerging risk of systemic failure in homelessness services in some areas. SOLACE Scotland has recently highlighted the unsustainable pressure on local authority housing. We take these warnings seriously and are determined to act in partnership with local authorities and the wider housing sector to address these risks.
The continued use of unsuitable accommodation in the areas with the greatest temporary accommodation pressures is particularly concerning, and national and local government recognise the detrimental effect on the health and wellbeing of homeless households. Our shared commitment to reducing the use of unsuitable accommodation remains firm.
We also need to reduce the numbers of households in temporary accommodation and the length of time households spend in temporary accommodation. This requires action to ensure sufficient high quality affordable homes in the areas where they are needed, and targeted support for the local authorities facing greatest pressure.
The pressures described in this document make it highly likely that our 2022-2023 homelessness statistics will show more households in temporary accommodation than in 2021-2022. The actions in this document set out the urgent action we will take to reverse that trend.
Temporary Accommodation Task and Finish Group
The Homelessness Prevention and Strategy Group, co-chaired by Scottish Ministers and COSLA, established an expert task and finish group to advise on the short-term measures needed to address the increasing use of temporary accommodation. Their report makes clear the challenges and the opportunities we have.
The Scottish Government is grateful to the members of the Temporary Accommodation Task and Finish Group for their efforts and insights over many months. We thank the group for the report and welcome the recommendations made. Particular thanks go to Alison Watson and John Mills for expertly co-chairing the discussions that brought about the group’s recommendations.
The Temporary Accommodation Task and Finish Group made 15 recommendations on action to reduce the numbers of people living in temporary accommodation and the length of time they stay there. We will prioritise action in response to the recommendations that will have the greatest impact to reduce the number of households in temporary accommodation by 2026. We will:
- invest at least £60 million through the Affordable Housing Supply programme in 2023-24 to support a national acquisition plan
- maintain momentum in delivering our Affordable Housing Supply Programme
- work with social landlords to deliver a new programme of stock management
- implement targeted partnership plans with the local authorities facing greatest pressure
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