Calls For New Homelessness Strategy

Charities have called for a new strategy to tackle homelessness following a study which found no reduction in demand despite "positive'' efforts by the Scottish Government.

Homelessness demand remains steady at about 56,000 cases a year, with a 5% drop in council assessments offset by steady demand in regional Housing Options hubs.

Households in temporary accommodation remains in the range of 10,000-11,000 at any one time, according to a report by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF) and Crisis.

The Homelessness Monitor: Scotland 2015 tracks the impact of economic and policy developments on homelessness.

The report raises concerns some councils were using Housing Options to deny people their statutory rights, limiting assistance to just signposting to other services.

Glasgow continues to face exceptional challenges from the unusually high numbers of people with complex needs sleeping rough in the city combined with a shortage of temporary accommodation for single men, it said.

Crisis chief executive Jon Sparkes said: "The Scottish Government has blazed a trail when it comes to tackling homelessness but there's no room for complacency.

"We're calling for a new cross-departmental strategy to tackle homelessness and strengthen the role of prevention and early intervention, particularly for those affected by changes to the welfare system, and boost support for the hardest to help.

"More needs to be done to support young homeless people, who are at particular risk from welfare cuts, while the proportion of people who are homeless and have complex needs such as mental health problems and substance dependency appears to be growing.

"We also need action to ensure that by the end of the next Parliament, no-one should live in unsuitable temporary accommodation, particularly B&Bs, for more than 14 days.''

Julia Unwin, chief executive of JRF, said: "Getting to grips with the housing crisis is key to driving down homelessness, so Scotland's commitment to building much-needed, genuinely affordable homes of all tenures is extremely welcome.

"However, building new homes takes time. JRF supports the UK Government's long-term aim of a higher pay economy with lower need for welfare, but reducing benefits before new homes are built and higher wages have the chance to plug the gap will leave many low-income households struggling to make ends meet.''

Lead author Professor Suzanne Fitzpatrick said: "There is a lot to praise in Scotland when it comes to tackling homelessness.

"The Scottish Government's renewed focus on homelessness and health, alongside improved protection and entitlements for young care leavers and the Scottish Welfare Fund are all very positive recent developments.

"But the threat posed by welfare cuts and benefit sanctions - especially for young people - is very real and risks undoing much of this progress.''

A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: "We welcome this report, which highlights the considerable progress made by Scotland in recent years and recognises that the overall number of homeless applications has fallen for six consecutive years. But this is a priority issue for us and we recognise there is more work to be done and we are actively increasing our focus on those with the most complex needs, including rough sleepers.

"We also share Crisis' concern about the impact of UK Government's welfare changes on homeless and vulnerable households, and are working with local authorities to support those affected.

"In addition, against a challenging financial background we are doing everything we can to help increase housing supply. We have exceeded our 30,000 affordable homes target for the lifetime of the current parliament, and have pledged to invest at least £3 billion to deliver 50,000 affordable homes over the next five years.''

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