Over the last 15 or so years, Shelter Scotland has championed Scotland’s claim to lead the world in tackling homelessness. But we have always recognised that this claim is one that must be earned rather than simply asserted.

In 1999, a newly empowered Scottish Parliament and Government set its sights on ending homelessness and established a Task Force to report on the issue. The breadth and ambition of the Homelessness Task Force paved the way for more than a decade of transformational change in rights to prevent and relieve homelessness across Scotland. But even the best framework of rights is only working if it actually delivers the help people need. The challenges in maintaining our world-leading reputation are greater than ever, and homelessness is far from fixed in Scotland today.

That is why this week in Glasgow, Shelter Scotland launched a national campaign to shine a light on the cracks emerging in the homelessness response in Scotland. With more than 10,000 people in temporary accommodation, the right to a home is not the same as getting a home and across the country services are uneven. Meanwhile, 150,000 households on council house waiting lists show the wider strain on the system where more affordable social housing is desperately needed.

Our campaign shows why it is time to re-forge a commitment to tackling homelessness, and to reinvigorate that drive we had in 1999 to promote social justice and increasing wellbeing for everyone in Scotland. Our overarching and most important ask is for the Scottish Government to commit to delivering a new National Homelessness Strategy: a national, cross-departmental action plan which shows renewed commitment to tackling homelessness. We want clear leadership and accountability and to re-invigorate current expert and practitioner groups. A refreshed homelessness plan and programme would set new horizons for homelessness services and deliver on other top-ranking national priorities such as improving social justice, bridging the attainment gaps in schools and focusing public spending on prevention work.

Equally important is that we believe a new strategic action plan should be co-produced with a range of stakeholders and partners, including people who have experienced, or are experiencing, homelessness. As such, Shelter Scotland have not set out a detailed blueprint for an action plan, but we have identified areas in our policy paper that we think a new strategy should cover and set out a series of recommendations to be considered. Among them are:

  • Taking a fresh look at the legislative framework and rights that have not yet been implemented in Scotland. This should include updating the statutory guidance on preventing and responding to homelessness to dovetail better with the Housing Options Guidance.
  • Local authorities should be encouraged and supported to develop ‘prevention pathways’ for certain groups most at risk of homelessness and continued prioritisation of homelessness prevention should be supported by ongoing analysis of statistics to increase understanding of effective prevention interventions.
  • There must be a review of the funding of temporary accommodation in Scotland, leading to a new model that is not solely reliant on the levels of housing benefit or Universal Credit.
  • A National Homelessness Strategy should set targets and approaches to reduce the use of B&B in all local authorities, particularly for vulnerable households, and reduce the length of stay in temporary accommodation for all homeless households.
  • A new National Homelessness Strategy should inform the development of new social housing to meet the needs of homeless households
  • The need to improve services and outcomes for homeless people with complex needs across Scotland should be a focus for a new National Homelessness Strategy. The Scottish Government should recommit to the target of reducing rough sleeping in Scotland.
  • A National Homelessness Strategy should commit to the elimination of gatekeeping practices and tackling the systemic problems in certain local authorities in meeting their homelessness commitments.

So over the next year we will be travelling across Scotland to show why homelessness is far from fixed and to gather support for fresh thought, momentum, leadership and action to tackle homelessness.

Read our policy report Homelessness: Far From Fixed, and find out more about the campaign on our website.