New prevention duty could make Scotland a world-leader in ending homelessness

New measures aimed at preventing people from losing their homes could make Scotland a world-leader in tackling homelessness, Crisis has said.

The homelessness charity has strongly welcomed First Minister Nicola Sturgeon’s commitment in the Programme for Government to bring forward changes to the law to prevent homelessness in Scotland.

As well as plans to strengthen existing homelessness prevention legislation, the statement also included plans to invest £50 million in a new Ending Homelessness Together Fund over the course of the parliament, with £12 million in 2021-22.

Plans to consult on new homelessness prevention duties follow publication of the Scotland Prevention Review Group report earlier this year.

The group, convened by Crisis, was made up of experts from local government, academia and homelessness services, and considered what actions could be taken to prevent people from being made homeless in the first place.

The group recommended that action to prevent homelessness would start up to six months before someone faces losing their home.

The recommendations 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 then act to support individuals and families to resolve housing problems.

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

The Group proposed clarifying the current law and requiring local authorities to take specific steps to prevent homelessness, building on recent developments in Wales and England.

Jon Sparkes, Chief Executive of Crisis, welcomed the First Minister’s announcement.

He said: “Crisis are delighted to see the First Minister set out her commitment to changing the law to prevent homelessness. These proposals hold the potential to make Scotland a world-leader when it comes to ending homelessness.

“Since the start of the pandemic our priority has been on getting people off the streets and into safe, self-contained accommodation. The action taken over the past 18 months by national and local government, as well as homelessness services, has undoubtedly saved lives.

“But we still have work to do. This year saw a record number of people trapped in temporary accommodation, and we remain deeply concerned that as the economic impact of the pandemic takes effect, more and more people who are currently struggling to get by could be pushed into homelessness.

“We know the best way to end homelessness is to prevent it happening in the first place. These proposals, if adopted, would allow Scotland to introduce some of the strongest protections in the world for people at risk of losing their home. We look forward to working with the Scottish Government and others to see these changes happen.”