Crisis, as part of the Everyone Home collective, is compiling a practical prevention compendium, bringing together in one place the best examples of what works to prevent homelessness in Scotland. Read on to find out how you can contribute…
There’s never been a more important time to step up our efforts to prevent homelessness.
Impact of COVID-19
Before the pandemic, at any one time, thousands of households in Scotland were living at risk of homelessness.
Fast forward to winter 2020. COVID-19 has piled more pressure onto the groups that already run a higher homelessness risk and pushed others into a situation where they’re unexpectedly facing homelessness for the first time.
Thanks to temporary legislation mandating longer notice periods, many renters have been protected from eviction. But when those measures are lifted in 2021, an unprecedented number of tenants with unresolved arrears will be at imminent risk of homelessness.
Homelessness applications in Scotland have been on the rise for a number of years. Households in temporary accommodation shot up during the pandemic, to the highest levels on record, by far.
We know the homelessness system causes harm. In general, the longer people spend in that system, the more harm is done. Temporary accommodation is the most expensive part of that system. The more resources we spend on that, the less we have to resource interventions which prevent homelessness happening in the first place.
That’s why maximising every opportunity to prevent homelessness is so vital in Scotland, right now.
New legal prevention duties
Whilst Scotland has stronger legal protections for people who are homeless than other parts of the UK, we know our approach to prevention has lagged behind that of England and Wales. That’s why the Homelessness and Rough Sleeping Action Group (HARSAG), which Crisis’ CEO Jon Sparkes chaired on behalf of the Scottish Government in 2018, recommended new legal duties to prevent homelessness.
Through 2020, Crisis has convened an expert group, chaired by Profession Suzanne Fitzpatrick of Heriot Watt University and supported by the Prevention Commission, a group of people with lived and frontline experiences of homelessness, to develop recommendations for the Scottish Government on what those duties should look like.
The Prevention Review Group (PRG) is preparing to report its conclusions. If the proposals become law, Scotland should see upstream, early intervention approaches become more embedded into ways of working. Local authorities will have a duty to intervene earlier to prevent homelessness, and non-housing public bodies, like Health and Social Care, Police and Prisons, will have duties to ask about, and act on, people’s housing situation.
But legal change doesn’t happen overnight – and thousands of households become homeless in Scotland every month. We can’t wait for the law to change to step up our prevention work – we need to act now.
Prevention in practice: tell us what works…
Through PRG stakeholder sessions, we’ve heard from organisations and projects across the country whose work is successfully preventing homelessness. We know there are many more – both in Scotland and further afield.
That’s why Crisis is putting together a practical prevention compendium. We want to showcase and share examples of what’s worked and working well, so others can learn, adapt and replicate.
We want to know what’s worked
- in particular communities, or geographies
- to reduce repeat homelessness
- for particular groups of people, through targeted activities
- upstream and downstream – from early intervention to crisis
- for landlords, advice and support services and community-led organisations
- for projects not based in the housing or homelessness sectors, which prevent homelessness by recognising the links between social harms and public services, and which work in partnership
The guide should be ready in early 2021.
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Lucie Dunn is Senior Best Practice Officer at Crisis