A report from the housing regulator has confirmed the authority failed some of those facing homelessness, but improvements have been made
Glasgow City Council failed to provide enough suitable temporary accommodation for people facing homelessness prior to Covid-19, a new report has revealed.
An inquiry by the Scottish Housing Regulator has revealed that before the pandemic the council did not ensure that it had enough suitable temporary accommodation and did not provide temporary accommodation to significant numbers of people when they needed it. In some cases, the people not accommodated were vulnerable and had approached the council for accommodation on multiple occasions.
However the report reveals that significant improvements have now been made, including that the authority has ensured it offers temporary accommodation to almost all people who require it during the coronavirus pandemic.
The Regulator planned to carry out its inquiry between December 2019 and May 2020 but was unable to undertake the full range of work due to the pandemic. The report sets out the findings from its work before the pandemic, where its focus was the council’s compliance with its statutory duty to provide temporary accommodation and the Council’s response to the Regulator’s last inquiry in March 2018. The report also describes how the council’s service has responded to the pandemic and the significant challenges it now faces to provide temporary accommodation and settled accommodation.
Michael Cameron, the regulator’s chief executive, said: “The council has undertaken and continues to undertake a wide programme of improvement and transformation activity as part of its Rapid Rehousing Transition Plan. It has made some important improvements in its service.
“The council should address the weaknesses we identified in its approach to temporary accommodation to help it build on and sustain compliance with its statutory duty to provide temporary accommodation and prepare for the extension of the Unsuitable Accommodation Order. It should ensure that it has an adequate level of suitable temporary accommodation which meets the diverse needs of people experiencing homelessness.
“We expect the council to ensure that its recovery plans address the weaknesses in its approach to temporary accommodation.”
Charity Shelter Scotland went to the courts last year over concerns it had about homeless people being denied accommodation, but later stood down the action once the regulator stepped in. Director Alison Watson said: “This report confirms the systemic failure of Glasgow City Council’s homelessness services, which has led to thousands of people being denied their legal rights.
“We took legal action last year because we’d had enough of the council routinely breaking the law and forcing people onto the streets. This inquiry wouldn’t have happened if it wasn’t for the thousands of people who supported our action, in Glasgow and beyond.
“We’ll now take the time to carefully reflect on the report and assess what needs to happen next. We welcome the regulator’s findings and recommendations and look forward to meeting to discuss the issues further. The test will be how Glasgow City Council responds positively to this unprecedented intervention.
“Our shared goal must be to ensure that everyone who presents to the council as homeless is provided with the safe and suitable accommodation they’re legally entitled to.”
A Glasgow City Council spokeswoman said: “We welcome this report from the regulator and their recognition that improvements have been made to our homelessness service in spite of the challenges we face.
“Glasgow receives 16.4% of all homelessness applications in Scotland and during April and August 2020, the council received an average of 481 homeless applications per month. Despite Covid-19 lockdown restrictions, the team made almost 6,000 offers of temporary accommodation and completed 1300 resettlement plans during that period - managing to maintain 95% of usual business.
“The service has improved in several areas, including preventing the cycle of repeat homelessness, however, our biggest challenge remains our access to temporary accommodation. This cannot be solved overnight. The council does not have its own housing stock, so we will continue to work with the city’s 68 Registered Social Landlords (RSLs) and City Building to bring quality temporary accommodation back into use as quickly as possible.
“We remain committed to working in partnership with the third sector and RSLs on a range of improvements we are making through our Rapid Rehousing Transition Plan, our new Alliancing model and Housing First. We are pleased that this is an area the regulator has also highlighted improvements in.”