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New health and care system can cut homelessness

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Homeless charity says health and social care professionals should start focusing on adults with physical and mental health problems

Health and social care integration could put an end to people with complex needs becoming homelessness, a housing charity has said.

Homeless Action Scotland chief executive Robert Aldridge said people who have a combination of difficulties such as mental health and physical health problems often find themselves homeless.

People are currently falling through the net because care professionals are not working together to address different health conditions together.

The introduction of combined health and social care services in Scotland, however, is designed to ensure that the NHS, local authorities and the third sector, including social housing providers, all work together to help people with health issues.

So far the focus for health and social care integration has been on older people, it is time to place a spotlight on homeless people with complex needs - Robert Aldridge

Usually the first problem identified is the one which is tackled with the remaining problems left unresolved," Aldridge told delegates at Homeless Action Scotland's annual conference.

"As a result people often end up in a really expensive revolving door of hospital, prison and homelessness. If health, social care and housing services genuinely work together to meet all their needs, many of the people who have been long-term homeless could see their lives transformed and their homelessness ended for good.

"So far the focus for health and social care integration has been on older people, it is time to place a spotlight on homeless people with complex needs. Unless they form part of the initial discussions they are likely to miss out again."

Housing Minister Margaret Burgess said: “We recognise that homelessness can be a complex issue and that addressing health needs and inequalities, both physical and mental, is an important preventative measure.

“We are taking action by working with homelessness and health services and developing the health and social care integration agenda.

“On top of this we continue to work with partners, including Homeless Action Scotland, to raise the profile of housing and homelessness against the background of health and social care integration.”