The last few years seem to have passed by in a bit of a whirlwind – elections, Brexit, new Bills, and the rollout of major new policies including changes to the way people claim and receive benefits via Universal Credit, austerity policies, economic uncertainty and huge cuts to local and national government budgets.
So what can we expect in 2018?
The Homelessness and Rough Sleeping Action Group, on which our deputy director Alison Watson sits, will report its recommendations on how we can end rough sleeping, how we can transform the use of temporary accommodation, and what needs to be done to end homelessness, all by late Spring 2018.
The Centre for Homelessness Impact will be launched in 2018, and along with the ESRC UK Collaborative Centre for Housing Evidence, will draw together evidence from across the sector and should provide interesting reading and recommendations for future work.
This year, we should also see the first Scottish national statistics analysing data on health and homelessness – which should help frame the support offered. We hope also to see the first national data from the Scottish Government on how long people spend in temporary accommodation. This should update Shelter Scotland’s own research into this which found that the average stay in so-called ‘temporary’ accommodation is 24 weeks, with 1 in 10 households spending over a year there.
- Affordable housing
We’ll enter the third year of the Scottish parliamentary term, and we will be monitoring further progress towards the commitment to deliver 50,000 affordable homes – with 35,000 of these for social rent – analysing how well this is meeting Scotland’s housing needs.
- Private rented sector
It’s a huge year for the private rented sector. The roll out of the new private residential tenancy will gather momentum, as old tenancies come to an end and new leases start. We’ll see the first tenants and landlords going through the new tribunal system. And from the end of January 2018, all letting agents will have to abide by a new code of conduct, which will regulate how they operate.
- Fuel poverty and energy efficiency
We’re expecting a Warm Homes Bill later in the year, which will include a strategy to tackle fuel poverty currently being consulted on. This will likely include targets for the eradication of fuel poverty – something that cannot come soon enough for the 649,000 households who are currently living in fuel poverty. We’ll also, likely, start to define ‘fuel poverty’ differently – a move intended to streamline resources and ensure that those most in need are reached. The Scottish Government is also considering introducing minimum energy efficiency standards for the private rented sector, which would give private tenants a more equal right to their counterparts renting from the council or registered social landlords. In addition, later in the year we expect the Scottish Government to consult on minimum energy efficiency standards for owner occupiers, as well as looking at what support is available to those who need it.
- Social security
2018 will undoubtedly see more changes to our social security system. Universal Credit will continue to be rolled out. The Social Security (Scotland) Bill has entered into its second stage in Parliament, and consultations on this continue.
- Child poverty
The Child Poverty (Scotland) Bill 2017 was passed on 18th December 2017, and means that Scottish Ministers must prepare their first delivery plan for 1st April 2018 to 31st March 2022 setting out what action will be taken to meet the new child poverty targets. We’ll also see a continuation of the new Poverty and Inequality Commission‘s work.
2018 also marks 50 years since Shelter Scotland’s inception. It is most certainly not a cause for celebration – but a sign of Scotland’s housing crisis that we are still here. In the last year our frontline advisers and support workers helped over 21,000 people across Scotland, and more than 820,000 people accessed information and advice through our online Get Advice pages. So what does 2018 hold in store for myself and colleagues at Shelter Scotland? Well, we’ll continue to offer advice and support in lots of different forms, we’ll continue to listen to the people we support and find out what they need and want to change. And we’ll continue to campaign for change, so that in another 50 years we don’t need to be here.