This week, Shelter Scotland launched a new campaign for housing rights in Scotland, including the launch of a public petition to embed the human right to housing fully in Scottish law.
There has been a lot of talk of rights recently: including concern about what happens with Brexit and the potential degradation of human rights protection that might follow. But more specifically: the First Minister’s advisory group of human rights leadership and their recommendations for incorporation of economic social and cultural human rights into Scottish law, and the recent taskforce that has been set up to take this forward; the work with a tenants organisation in Leith looking at how taking a human rights based approach to housing can help tenants have their voice heard; the SERCO evictions in Glasgow and the Scottish Human Rights Commission’s landmark intervention. And, closer to home, the housing sector’s own focus on human rights will be the theme of this year’s Scottish Housing Day.
We want people across Scotland to join with us and sign a petition to show their support for stronger human rights in relation to housing. But what we know from providing advice and support to people in housing need, and a view commonly shared amongst organisations providing frontline advice, is that rights alone are not enough. Even a well written, fully incorporated right to adequate housing is not a silver bullet to the housing emergency we’re currently in.
We know (and ‘we’ extends to the whole sector, not just Shelter Scotland) that to lots of people, rights to housing are routinely denied. And that when this happens, often individuals don’t feel able to enforce their rights – a tribunal might seem too time consuming, a court might seem too intimidating, and a letter or ask is impossible for people who are unaware of their rights in the first place.
So: what are the solutions? What needs to happen on the ground? We have a national action plan on ending homelessness which contains much of what is necessary: programmes like rolling out SHORE standard-type initiatives across all groups we know are at higher risk of homelessness; we’re not suggesting reinventing the wheel. But this isn’t just about homelessness – but about looking holistically at the right to housing, and how this works across tenures, across communities, and across Scotland. Everyone has the right to a good, safe home. We believe that taking a rights-based approach will help achieve a safe, secure home for everyone. Which is why we’re asking for people to join us:
- People of Scotland: sign the petition today
- Organisations: to adopt the Charter for Change, and show your commitment to a rights-based approach to housing. This will enable organisations of all different shapes and sizes to think how what difference they can help affect within the communities they serve, and what pledges they can make.
So the question is: Are you with us?