New plan to end homelessness by catching causes six months early

Ambitious new measures aimed at widening responsibility for homelessness prevention could stop people from losing their homes and make Scotland a world leader in ending homelessness, according to a new report from an independent group of experts.

The new recommendations aim to prevent homelessness.

Homelessness charity Crisis says that with 8% of the Scottish population (1 in 12 people) having experienced homelessness the need to stop people losing their homes in the first place has never been stronger.

The Homelessness Prevention Review Group (HPRG), which was set up at the request of Scottish Government and convened by Crisis, has recommended that action to prevent homelessness should start up to six months before someone faces losing their home.

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This would mean that public bodies, such as health services, should ask about people’s housing situation to identify any issues at an early stage and act where a problem exists.

The recommendation is that they would then work together with housing professionals to ensure that people get help early and do not lose their home.

The proposals, if implemented, would ensure that no one leaves an institution, such as prison or hospital, without somewhere to sleep.

The HPRG was chaired by Professor Suzanne Fitzpatrick of Heriot-Watt University and was made up of local authority bodies, representatives from the housing and homelessness sectors and health and social care.

Housing Minister Kevin Stewart said: “Ending homelessness is a priority for the Scottish Government so I welcome the recommendations in this report, which focuses on the importance of preventing homelessness from happening in the first place.

"The report also highlights the importance of a whole-system, person-centred approach to our goal of preventing homelessness, for example through the work of health, education and justice services.

"Crisis in particular has provided significant resources to this work and I am grateful for the commitment they have shown.”

The HPRG was supported by the Prevention Commission, a group of people with lived and frontline experience of homelessness, whose views shaped the proposals.

Prevention Review Group chair Professor Fitzpatrick said: “While we have strong protections in place to help individuals and families when they are at imminent risk of losing their home, we have laid far less emphasis to date on effective work to prevent homelessness happening in the first place.

“Our work was guided by three principles: that there should be a collective responsibility across public services to prevent homelessness; that intervention to prevent homelessness should start as soon as possible; and that those at risk of homelessness should have greater choice in where they live and access to the same options as other members of the public.

“The homelessness system should become the safety net it was intended to be rather than a default response to housing problems. The recommendations in this report hold the potential to radically change the face of the homelessness system in Scotland.”

Among the recommendations made, is the idea that Health and social care partnerships should co-operate with the local authority to plan for the needs of applicants for homelessness assistance who may have health and social care needs.

It was also recommended that 16 and 17 year olds who are at risk of homelessness should be assisted by children’s services rather than adult services.