New act aims to end homelessness north of the border within 10 years

The Scottish parliament passed the Homelessness (Scotland) Bill
this week, which committed the assembly to ending homelessness in
Scotland within 10 years.

The new legislation will see everyone who is assessed as being
unintentionally homeless entitled to permanent accommodation by

The distinction between “priority” and “non-priority” applications
for local authority assistance will be phased out, and
“probationary” tenancies will be provided for people judged to have
made themselves homeless intentionally.

Social justice minister Margaret Curran said: “The implementation
of this billÉwill dramatically change the response to
homelessness in Scotland. The bill will put in place the mechanisms
to ensure that this change is managed and sustained for the benefit
of Scotland’s most vulnerable people.”

The bill will also lead to “modest changes” to the repossession
process to help prevent the causes of homelessness and a relaxing
of the rules that require applicants to demonstrate a connection to
the area in which they are applying for assistance.

The bill was amended by Karen Whitefield, Labour MSP for Airdrie
and Shotts, to allow ministers to regulate against the
inappropriate use of bed and breakfast accommodation for families
with children.

The legislation will implement five of the 59 recommendations made
by the homelessness task force, which was set up by the executive
in 1999. Implementation of the remaining recommendations, which
were all accepted by the executive, will be overseen by a new
national Homelessness Monitoring Group.

Robert Aldridge, director of the Scottish Council for Single
Homeless and a task force member, said: “When combined with the
reforms of the 2001 Housing Act, we will have some of the most
progressive homelessness legislation in Europe. The act sets the
scene for a major culture change in the way we treat homeless
people in Scotland. It begins to dismantle the bureaucratic aspects
of earlier legislation.

“The new act aims to concentrate resources on assisting homeless
people to be housed successfully rather than on investigating how
they might be rationed out of the system.”

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