In late 2018 the Scottish Government announced funding of £50 million to the Ending Homelessness Together action plan, which is to run for five years from 2018–19. The strategy is led by the Homelessness Prevention and Strategy Group, which is co-chaired by the Scottish Government and COSLA (Convention of Scottish Local Authorities). A key direction of the strategy is the need to work in partnership with homelessness and housing services and across services including health, education, social work, community support and justice to ensure that homelessness is only ever ‘rare, brief and non-recurrent’.
The strategy evolved from 70 recommendations made by the Homelessness and Rough Sleeping Action Group, an expert group set up by the Scottish Government, and a report on homelessness by the Scottish Parliament’s Local Government and Communities Committee.
The strategy is premised on a National Performance Framework, which prioritises five values:
- We respect, protect and fulfil human rights and live free from discrimination
- We tackle poverty by sharing opportunities, wealth and power more equally
- We live in communities that are inclusive, empowered, resilient and safe
- We grow up loved, safe and respected so we can realise our full potential
- We are well educated, skilled and able to contribute to society
There are five actions that underpin the strategy:
- embedding a person-centred approach across public services to support individual needs
- putting prevention first, to minimise the risk of people becoming homeless in the first place
- prioritising settled housing for all
- responding quickly and effectively whenever it happens
- joining up planning and resources.
How is the strategy progressing?
In 2021 the Scottish Government doubled its funding and to invest an additional £50 million over the term of the parliament. Despite the complex impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, the 2021 annual report indicates that the strategy is progressing well, with 33,792 homeless applications in 2020/21, a decrease of 9 per cent compared to 2019/20 and 27,571 households assessed as homeless in 2020/21, a decrease of 13 per cent compared to 2019/20.
However, 13,097 households were in temporary accommodation at 31st March 2021, an increase of 12 per cent compared to March 31st 2020. The increase in the number of households in temporary accommodation may be due to two reasons: the rise in the number of open cases increased overall demand for temporary accommodation, while some households who had previously chosen not to take up temporary accommodation now required it as the alternative arrangements were no longer viable due to the pandemic. Due to the impacts of COVID it is difficult to know if the overall reduction trends will continue in the future.
National Housing Strategy
Complementing the Homelessness Action Plan, the Scottish Government in 2021 launched Housing to 2041, the country’s first long-term national housing strategy, aiming to build on the policies developed since 2007 that have delivered nearly 100,000 new affordable homes, supporting 35,000 people to buy homes through a shared equity program and supporting 8,000 people to buy their own home through the First Home Fund Pilot.
Key actions outlined in the comprehensive housing strategy include:
- delivering a further 100,000 affordable homes over the following ten years up to 2031/32, with at least 70% of these for social rent
- supporting housing development in rural and island communities, helping to stem rural depopulation and supporting communities to thrive.
- publishing a new Rented Sector Strategy, informed by tenants, and bringing forward a new Housing Bill early in the next Parliament
- ensuring all new homes delivered by Registered Social Landlords and local authorities will be zero emissions by 2026.
- introducing legislation in the next Parliament to implement a new Housing Standard
As with the Homelessness action plan, Housing to 2041 has been delivered through extensive consultation with cross-sectoral stakeholders and commits to working with local authorities, housing providers, landlords and the construction and house building sectors to deliver the ambitions within the strategy.
A presentation about the Scottish Homelessness Action Plan will be delivered at the upcoming National Homelessness Conference in Canberra from 8 to 10 August.