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Homelessness services – accept the cuts or find new ways of funding them?

It’s a familiar theme nowadays – cuts to the funding of services set against increased expectation and demand for that service.

Right now in Scotland, homelessness services are under threat from a perfect storm of cuts to local authority budgets and changes to the way temporary accommodation is funded.

Set against a background of some local authorities believing the decrease in homelessness numbers has plateaued and is set to increase, gives cause for deep concern.

Together, they have the capacity to undermine much of the excellent progress Scotland has made on homelessness over the past decade including its world-recognised 2012 legislation on homelessness.

A new independent report ‘Funding Homeless Services in Scotland’ by Anna Evans Housing Consultancy, which was commissioned by Shelter Scotland, highlights elements of the potential storm.

First, the money local authorities receive from central government to pay for temporary accommodation is going to be reduced by being linked to the Local Housing Allowance from next year. The report shows how some local authorities are concerned that the standard of accommodation used for housing homeless people could deteriorate due to lack of repairs and maintenance caused by budget constraints. It also found there was little evidence of recent investment in the quality of accommodation for homeless people.

Second, local authority budgets for homelessness services are not ring-fenced and are vulnerable to cuts.  The research showed how local authorities are concerned that further funding cuts will impact their ability to maintain personalised homelessness services developed under the Housing Options approach.

The question is, do we just accept that the quality of services for homeless people should be eroded?  Do we just accept that the standard of temporary accommodation homeless people have to live in – including around 5,000 children – should decline in quality through lack of repairs or maintenance?

Or should the Scottish Government and COSLA look at a new funding model that recognises and supports the full cost of providing good quality temporary accommodation and delivering world-class homelessness services?

We simply mustn’t drop the ball on homelessness. Councils need to be supported so they can continue with their frontline person-centred services – not just their statutory duties.  It’s vital that we find some practical and creative ways of tackling this potential storm.

Politicians also need to develop a new National Homelessness Strategy for Scotland to bring a joined up approach to tackle this issue head-on and focus on the root causes of homelessness.

Read the full report titled Funding Homelessness Services in Scotland here.