The last year has been a whirlwind for homelessness in Scotland. We’ve had action groups, action plans, consultations, research, legislative changes, funding pots and an effort to roll out initiatives like Housing First and rapid rehousing.
And today, we have new numbers from the Scottish Government which tell the story of homelessness in the six months between April and September 2018. And the figures aren’t pretty:
- 18,486 homeless applications were made, which is 2% more (or 284 applications) than the same period in 2017
- People spent an average of 178 days in temporary accommodation – almost half a year.
- And on 30th September 2018 (the last date in which a snapshot figure was taken) there were 10,955 households in temporary accommodation, including 6,826 children. Again, a rise on the year before.
But for me, the most shocking statistics are that in that period there were hundreds of breaches of the Unsuitable Accommodation Order – which limits the amount of time some households (mainly families) can stay in accommodation deemed ‘unsuitable’, like B&Bs, and thousands of instances recorded of households being turned away and not offered temporary accommodation when they should have been. What seems to slip notice is that this is against the law.
Where is the follow up? What is the Scottish Housing Regulator doing in all this? What about the Scottish Government? What would happen if this were individuals breaking the law hundreds or thousands or times, rather than a public authority?
We’re in an arguably enviable position in Scotland right now in many ways – we’ve had legislation like the Unsuitable Accommodation Order, reducing the time that families can stay in B&Bs (effectively) from 14 days to 7 days which is a great step in the right direction – it goes without saying that no one should have to stay in accommodation that has been deemed ‘unsuitable’. We have a government committed to taking action on homelessness, with an action plan detailing almost a hundred changes they will make, with partners. And this blog is not to take away from that – as members of the Homeless and Rough Sleeping Action Group, and the Homeless Prevention and Strategy Group, we endorse these as part of the solution.
It is really positive that the government has committed to legislating for change. But, frankly, what use are all these changes if they’re not abided by? If people in crisis don’t know about it? If there is no follow up when cash-strapped local authorities don’t or can’t act in line with it?
The upcoming budget is an opportunity for the Scottish Government to show its commitment to tackling homelessness, and to ensure that those on the ground in local authorities are resourced properly and sustainably to respond to people at the worst times of their life.
We’ve had the reports, the consultations, the debates and the discussions. Now we need action.