Scotland ‘within touching distance’ of eradicating homelessness in 2012
Homelessness has fallen to its lowest level in a decade as the Scottish Government closes in on a flagship target to eradicate the problem in Scotland.
The country is now within “touching distance” of the goal, the government says, although opposition leaders warn that there is still some way to go.
Figures published yesterday show that there has been a doubling in the number of early notifications to local authorities of households at risk of homelessness due to eviction.
There were 23,796 homeless applications to local authorities between April and September 2011, a 20 per cent decrease compared with the same period the previous year. There were falls in 28 of Scotland’s 32 councils, with Aberdeen and the Borders both recording a fall of 56 per cent.
The government is aiming towards a homelessness target, set ten years ago, to ensure that by the end of 2012 all unintentionally homeless people will be entitled to settled accommodation.
Housing minister Keith Brown said: “These encouraging statistics show we are within touching distance of meeting the 2012 homelessness target. The dramatic decrease in applications is likely to be a consequence of changes in how local authorities help households who approach them for assistance.
“Over the past few years, councils have been developing services in which staff assist households to consider the range of options available to address their housing needs.”
Shelter Scotland director Graeme Brown said: “A 20 per cent reduction in homeless applications compared to this time last year is great news and I congratulate the majority of local authorities across Scotland who have made huge progress on homelessness.
“This success should not blind us to the scale of Scotland’s ongoing housing crisis.
“Nearly 50,000 people still presented as homeless in the last 12 months, so this progress needs to be a catalyst for even greater change.”
Mr Brown said local authorities should now focus on homelessness prevention while the Scottish Government should implement housing support provisions passed by the Scottish Parliament last year.
The homelessness target was a landmark policy of the inaugural Labour/Liberal Democrat administration in 2002.
Labour’s Elaine Murray said: “Scottish Labour is proud of the ground-breaking homelessness legislation it passed back in 2003, but, if the 2012 target is to be hit, the SNP government must step its efforts up a gear.
“We must not forget that people become homeless for all sorts of reasons and are among the most vulnerable people in our communities. I urge the SNP Government to pull out all the stops to make Scotland’s 2012 homelessness target a reality.”
Liberal Democrat housing spokesman Jim Hume said there is “no room for complacency”.
He added: “The Scottish Government must do all it can to meet this hugely important target by the end of this year.
“That’s why Liberal Democrats argued for more funds to build homes for rent in the Scottish budget. To reach these homeless targets and the desperate need for more homes in Scotland, we will continue to press the Scottish Government on this.”
Councils received about 4,000 notifications from creditors in each quarter in 2011 – double the rate in 2010.
However, repossession on the grounds of mortgage default was 56 per cent lower. This may be down to one particular court ruling in late 2010 involving Royal Bank of Scotland that saw lenders withdrawing repossession cases from the courts, in order to restart the process, so that cases could proceed as required by the judgment.
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