Despite strong evidence, good arguments and well structured (well we would say that!) campaigns, sometimes, regrettably, bad policy is taken forward. Over the past eighteen months Shelter Scotland and other campaigning organisations have struggled against the Coalition government’s welfare reforms and in particular, the obstinate refusal to listen to either moral reason or a sound financial case for reversing some of the cuts.
So with a heavy heart a few weeks ago, I blogged about another cause – this time being floated in the Scottish political sphere. The Scottish Government were proposing the introduction of mandatory probationary tenancies for all new social tenants. Shelter Scotland were passionately opposed to this and formed a coalition of organisations who were not afraid to put their heads above the parapet. We urged the Scottish Government to reconsider and made it plain that for this cause, we were quite prepared to rock the boat.
So we were delighted to hear that the Scottish Government has scrapped the notion of putting all new tenants ‘on probation’.
We had argued that this was an unfair and discriminatory policy that would penalise the majority for the actions of a small minority. We were also concerned about a lack of evidence about how effective the measure would be at tackling anti-social behaviour and how onerous it would be for landlords to implement. It is extremely encouraging to see that the Scottish Government engaged in a genuine consultation exercise which ultimately led to this policy proposal being withdrawn.
So we will not see legislation on ‘initial’ or ‘probationary’ tenancies in the forthcoming Housing Bill. This is great news for the hundreds of thousands of households on social housing waiting lists in Scotland and for those who need a safe, secure and permanent home after moving on from the crisis and distress of homelessness.
At a time when some politicians have sought to stigmatise social housing tenants as scroungers and the poor are being demonised as the root of the country’s ills, it is heartening to see with this decision, that Scotland’s politicians have struck a different tone.
And so, in this challenging climate of welfare reforms and budget cuts it is inspiring to know that it is possible to take on a cause and actually see a very positive effect.