Housing charity criticises ongoing delay
A leading housing charity has condemned the Scottish Government for breaking a promise to end the use of substandard, temporary accommodation.
Shelter Scotland said that the ongoing delay to fully implement new protections for homeless people will place a further burden on some of the people most at risk in society, effectively leaving many to bear the brunt of the crisis without being able to access the accommodation they are entitled to.
Since 2014, the Unsuitable Accommodation Order (UAO) has protected pregnant women and families with children who are homeless from being stuck in hotels and B&Bs, for more than a week. The policy recognises that hotels and B&Bs are not a home and that long-term stays in such accommodation is harmful to people’s life chances.
That was why, before the pandemic, Scottish Minsters had already promised to extend this protection to all homeless people from May 2021.
At the start of lockdown, in response to the pandemic, the Scottish housing minister then promised to bring these protections forward to ensure everyone is entitled to a decent temporary home.
This provision for all homeless people was supposed to come into effect in September 2020, but, this week, the Scottish Government announced a third delay – until June 2021 – following on from a previous delay of three months until the end of last month.
Shelter Scotland director Alison Watson said: “It is deeply disappointing that the Scottish Government has once again chosen to not prioritise the rights of homeless individuals in the midst of a pandemic.
“The opportunity to make sure that homeless households are prioritised and have suitable temporary accommodation that meets their needs when they are in a housing crisis has been missed once again.
“We are nearly a year into the COVID-19 pandemic, yet not enough has been done to get people into the settled homes they need to stay safe. The Scottish Government and Local Authorities must outline what they plan to do between now and June to make sure suitable accommodation is there for everyone who needs it.”
Watson added: “Being placed in unsuitable temporary accommodation can have a significant impact on the mental and physical health and wellbeing of individuals, and when people report that they feel safer sleeping rough – even in winter – rather than being in this temporary accommodation, it is very clear that some temporary accommodation is not fit for purpose and leaves people at high risk of harm.
“This is the reality of unsuitable temporary accommodation and by extending the Unsuitable Accommodation Order exemptions yet again, this gives a green light to Local Authorities to put more homeless people into these precarious situations.
“It is decisions such as the one taken by Ministers this week which highlights why Shelter Scotland is calling upon the Scottish Government to commit to building at least 37,100 social rented homes in the next parliament to help to protect people from homelessness, reduce housing need, provide hope for people struggling to get by, to secure jobs and reinvigorate our communities across the country.”