The significant advances made in how homelessness is tackled in Scotland have been welcomed by the Infrastructure and Capital Investment Committee in a report issued today.
The result of a 4-month-long inquiry, the report examines the impact of the Scottish Parliament’s ground-breaking homelessness legislation which created a 2012 homeless commitment that entitles all unintentionally homeless people to settled accommodation by the end of that year.
During a series of evidence sessions, the committee heard that major steps had been taken to meeting the target as a result of local authorities assessing individual circumstances more effectively and preventing homelessness.
Committee Convener Maureen Watt MSP said: “There is no doubt that the homelessness commitment created in 2003 was challenging, but by recognising that homelessness is not simply a housing issue, there has been a positive cultural change in how local authorities tackle this crucial issue.
“We heard evidence that the ‘housing options’ approach adopted by local authorities, and aided by better partnership working, focussed on the best outcome for the person seeking assistance.
"This positive approach has already had an impact, with the latest statistics showing a 20% reduction in homelessness across Scotland.
“However, it is also clear that there is much to do, and we would urge the Scottish Government to put in measures to ensure that the ‘housing options’ approach is encouraged and of a consistent standard across Scotland.
"The Committee will monitor the situation after the full implementation of the commitment this year.”
Whilst acknowledging the work which had been done so far, the report also notes the potential obstacles to meeting the 2012 commitment. These include changes expected under the UK Welfare Reform Act which it is expected will place increased pressures on local authorities.
The committee, which will monitor the implementation of the 2012 commitment for the rest of the session, examined the importance of preventative work and asks the Scottish Government to consider including money advice and debt counselling as an integral part of the housing support to be made available to persons who are homeless.
During the course of its inquiry, the committee took evidence from a range of organisations including Shelter Scotland and the Association of Local Authority Chief Housing Officers.
In Scotland there are approximately:
- 1.5 million owner-occupied homes
- 273,000 privately rented homes
- 272,000 homes rented from housing associations
- and 323,000 homes rented from local authorities.
Figures issued by the Scottish Government showed that there was a 20% reduction in homelessness applications in April to September 2011 (11,980 applications) compared to the same period in 2010 (15,033 applications).
Scotland’s 2012 homelessness commitment was created under the Homelessness etc. (Scotland) Act 2003. It entitles all unintentionally homeless people to settled accommodation from the end of 2012.
Figures received by the committee showed the variation amongst local authorities across Scotland in making progress towards meeting the 2012 commitment.
Currently, local authorities have to secure settled accommodation for those homeless applicants who have been assessed as unintentionally homeless and in priority need.
The Scottish Government has reported that, between July and September 2011:
- Nine council areas assessed 100% of homeless assessments as having a priority need. These councils were Angus, Dundee City, Moray, North Ayrshire, Orkney, Renfrewshire, Scottish Borders, Stirling and West Dunbartonshire. This is an increase of six councils compared with the same quarter in 2010
- Eleven council areas assessed more than 90% of homeless as having a priority need. These councils were East Renfrewshire, Inverclyde, Glasgow City, Dumfries & Galloway, Falkirk, Clackmannanshire, Perth & Kinross, South Ayrshire, South Lanarkshire, Shetland, and Midlothian
- Eight council areas – Aberdeen City, Aberdeenshire, Argyll & Bute, East Ayrshire, East Dunbartonshire, Edinburgh, Fife and West Lothian – assessed between 80% and 90% of homeless cases as having a priority need
- Three council areas – Highland (79%), North Lanarkshire (78%) and Eilean Siar (74%) – assessed between 70% and 80% of homeless cases as having a priority need
- East Lothian Council assessed 66% of homeless cases as having a priority need.