World Homeless Day – Jon Sparkes
A guest blog from Jon Sparkes, CEO of Crisis.
Ending Homelessness Together
The Homelessness & Rough Sleeping Action Group completed its work in June 2018 after nine months of intense activity to answer four key questions:
- What could be done to reduce the number of people rough sleeping in the winter of 2017/18
- How can we end rough sleeping in Scotland?
- How can we transform the use of temporary accommodation (TA) in Scotland?
- What will it take to end homelessness altogether?
Our recommendations for the first question were implemented in full, and the impact of that has been carefully documented in order to inform the work of the Scottish Government, local authorities and other agencies going forward. For the other three questions, we presented the Scottish Government with a set of 70 recommendations in June – the large majority of which can be implemented by the Scottish Government, councils and other agencies in Scotland; with a small number requiring dialogue with the UK Government over welfare policy.
It is a set of recommendations we were proud to submit after our short time working together, and a set of recommendations accepted in principle by the Scottish Government.
So far, so good.
Now the hard work really begins.
I am delighted to see that local authorities are already working hard to develop their 5-year Rapid Rehousing Transition Plans by December, and that the Scottish Government has now pledged £23.5 million from the Ending Homelessness Together Fund and from the health portfolio to support this transition. The commitment from the new Cabinet Secretary for Communities and Local Government, Aileen Campbell, to enabling this to be achieved was evident during her visit to the Crisis office in Edinburgh recently.
I am also delighted to see plans progressing for the Housing First pathfinders with co-funding from the Scottish Government and Social Bite, and to see that the pledge to build 35,000 homes for social rent is progressing. Above all, I am pleased to see the lessons learnt from:
- The amazing work of front-line staff and volunteers from organisations like Aberdeen Cyrenians, Bethany Trust, Simon Community Scotland, and Streetwork over the winter of 2017/18;
- And, the view of 425 people with experience of homelessness through the ‘Aye We Can’ research conducted by Glasgow Homeless Network and funded by Crisis.
Where do we go from here?
In the recent Programme for Government speech, the First Minister promised a ‘comprehensive plan’ for tackling homelessness would be published this year, and I know that behind the scenes an expanded Homelessness Team is working away to produce that plan in collaboration with colleagues from across Government and other important bodies such as ALACHO, COSLA and the Housing Regulator. This work is being brought together under the leadership of the Homelessness Prevention and Strategy group chaired by Kevin Stewart, the Minister for Local Government, Housing and Planning and Councillor Elena Witham, the communities spokesperson for COSLA.
But in addition to producing a comprehensive plan, we are also piecing together an outcomes framework, setting out what this plan needs to achieve. ‘Simple’ you might say – ending rough sleeping, transforming TA, and ending homelessness. And, yes, in some ways it is that simple. But this framework will form the blueprint for future generations and will last across political cycles and divides. We will all look back in years to come to check that not only was there a plan and it was implemented, but also that it had the desired impact. Homelessness is an issue that cuts across government responsibilities and this framework must be embedded across departments in order to achieve success.
This is taken into account in the outcomes framework, which is progressing well. It’s not finished yet, but here are some key ingredients:
- It links explicitly to the National Performance Framework, and particularly those elements relating to tackling poverty, fulfilling human rights, health, inclusive and resilient communities, education and skills, and jobs;
- It has one, really clear over-arching aim that everyone can get behind – in draft this says, ‘Everyone has a safe, warm, secure home that suits their needs and homelessness is ended’;
- It is then broken down into some clear outcomes, including homelessness only ever being rare, brief and non-recurrent, homelessness not being caused by Government policies, TA being only needed in emergencies or very specific and clear circumstances and being of a high standard, and absolutely no-one having to sleep rough.
It then goes into more detail on particular workstreams needed to achieve these outcomes, and will be published alongside the Scottish Government’s comprehensive plan.
Crisis, the organisation I lead, and many others delivering services and campaigning on ending homelessness, won’t rest until this is achieved. At Crisis, we are asking the governments of Scotland, England and Wales to boldly commit to ending homelessness. To help with this, we recently published ‘Everybody In: How to end homelessness in Great Britain’. As a politically neutral organisation, we don’t support one government or another, or any of the opposition parties. We simply want to see those in power, and those who hold them to account finally committing to ending an injustice that shouldn’t happen in wealthy countries – or any country for that matter. The outcomes framework, alongside the Scottish Government’s comprehensive plan will hopefully give us the comfort that Scotland is on track to making such a commitment.
For more information on the work Crisis does in Scotland please visit www.crisis.org.uk/scotland
- Jon Sparkes is a member of the Homelessness Prevention and Strategy Group and was chair of the Homelessness and Rough Sleeping Action Group which was established by the Scottish Government in September 2017. It announced its final recommendations on Ending Homelessness in Scotland in June 2018, which followed earlier recommendations for Transforming Temporary Accommodation in May 2018 and Ending Rough Sleeping in March 2018. Its recommendations on Ways to Minimise Rough Sleeping were published in November 2017.
- A high level action plan, which includes the outcome framework highlighted in this blog, is due to be published by the Homelessness Prevention and Strategy Group this Autumn. The Scottish Government has announced £50 million over five years from 2018-19 to support to support local authorities and others to ensure homelessness services are more responsive, of a high standard and focused on prevention.