Academic plays central role in GBP21 million homelessness funding announcement



People who are living in temporary accommodation or at risk of homelessness are to be supported quickly into permanent homes through new investment of up to £21 million, Housing Minister Kevin Stewart has announced.

The funding was based on the published final recommendations, agreed in principal by the Scottish Government, of the Homelessness and Rough Sleeping Action Group.  Heriot-Watt's Professor Suzanne Fitzpatrick has played a central role in the group since its establishment in September 2017.

We are extremely encouraged by the enthusiasm shown by the Scottish Government to embrace the final recommendations of the Homelessness and Rough Sleeping Action Group and believe there will be vital lessons to be shared with the rest of the UK.

Professor Suzanne Fitzpatrick, Heriot-Watt University

Homelessness organisations and local authorities will use the funding, which is part of the £50 million 'Ending Homelessness Together Fund', along with a health funding contribution of £1.5 million over the first two years, to develop their transition to a Housing First and rapid rehousing approach.  Housing First provides permanent housing as a first, rather than last, response for people with complex needs.   

Housing Minister Kevin Stewart said: “I would like to thank the Homelessness and Rough Sleeping Action Group for their hard work and dedication over the past nine months. We know that homelessness is not solely a housing issue and we are committed to tackling the wider risk factors of homelessness and rough sleeping, including poverty and the increased risk of homelessness due to UK Government welfare cuts.

“Our significant £21 million investment will include up to £4 million to support local authorities in the five cities participating in the joint Social Bite and Corra Housing First initiative. This funding will ensure we support people at times of crisis, while also taking an important step towards transforming the system and offering rapid routes back to settled housing. Our focus on prevention has contributed toward a 39% fall in homelessness applications in the last ten years. We want to build on these strengths and accelerate progress.”  

Commenting on the funding, Professor Suzanne Fitzpatrick said: “Heriot-Watt's Institute for Social Policy, Housing, Equalities Research (I-SPHERE) has long advocated the merits of the Housing First model but, for many years, it was a lone voice in the UK. The international evidence base supporting this model is overwhelming. While no single approach will suit everyone, there can be no doubt that Housing First is the best possible way to help the majority of homeless people with complex needs. What is critical now is to use this funding to structurally embed Housing First as the 'default option' for homeless people with complex needs across Scotland.

Jon Sparkes, Chair of the Homelessness & Rough Sleeping Action Group and Chief Executive of national homeless charity Crisis, said: "Everyone in Scotland deserves the dignity and stability of a safe and stable place to live, so we are very pleased the Scottish Government has accepted our recommendations to tackle homelessness across the country.

“Right now far too many people are either at risk of becoming homeless, or are already stuck in temporary accommodation or sleeping on the streets. When we know what it takes to end homelessness, this just isn't right. We welcome the government's pledge of vital funds to house people more quickly, and to provide the crucial support they need to leave homelessness behind for good. In addition, we have called for public bodies – such as hospitals, prisons, and social care services – to play a role in preventing homelessness, and for the government, local authorities and social landlords to build the social housing we need to truly meet demand.

“Now is the time for action, and we look forward to working closely with the Scottish Government to make these plans a reality so that ultimately, homelessness in Scotland can be ended once and for all.”

The allocation of £21 million funding to support a transition to rapid rehousing and Housing First comes alongside the publication of the final recommendations of the Scottish Government's Homelessness and Rough Sleeping Action Group (HARSAG). Of this, up to £4 million will be available to support local authorities in the five cities participating in the joint Social Bite and Corra Housing First initiative which Professor Fitzpatrick helped to launch earlier this year.

The health funding contribution of £1.5 million comes from the additional £20 million investment made this year for addiction services. The HARSAG was established in September 2017 to set out actions to tackle and prevent homelessness. The HARSAG made recommendations for changes to the homelessness system, including transition to rapid rehousing and Housing First as well as increased focus on support for people and on homelessness prevention.

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