East Lothian Council Cabinet members heard at their meeting on Tuesday that tackling homelessness remains a serious challenge due to Scottish Government funding falling far short of the bid for monies
Changing legislation was also considered a cause for concern, having the potential to significantly increase the numbers of homeless households requiring accommodation.
East Lothian Council has made good progress in tackling homelessness in recent years, with a 90 per cent success rate in preventing homelessness. There has been a 35 per cent reduction in homelessness presentations since 2012 as a result of early intervention work.
Along with other Scottish local authorities, East Lothian Council prepared a RRTP for the period 2019/20-2023/24 which takes account of recommendations from the Scottish Government’s Homelessness and Rough Sleeping Action Group. ‘Rapid Rehousing’ aims to end rough sleeping; transform the use of temporary accommodation and contribute to ending homelessness across Scotland. Where homelessness cannot be prevented, rapid rehousing refers to:
- A settled, mainstream housing outcome as quickly as possible
- Time spent in any form of temporary accommodation reduces to a minimum, with fewer transitions the better
- When temporary accommodation is needed, the optimum type is mainstream, furnished and within a community.
Initially, East Lothian Council requested £7.221million from the Scottish Government to achieve a rapid rehousing approach across the county by 2024.
However, the total costs of bids across Scotland was substantially higher than funding available. Monies have now been allocated for 2019-20 and East Lothian Council will receive only £160k from Scottish Government. This will have a significant impact on the ability to deliver and the council requires to revise and reduce the plan accordingly. Cabinet members heard that this will be more challenging within a context of uncertainty around further funding and a series of proposed changes to homelessness legislation, which will commence in November this year.
Council officers expressed concern with regard to a likely increase in homelessness presentations in East Lothian, as a result of legislative change in relation to local connection and intentionality, which further compound the challenge of working towards a rapid rehousing approach.
Following a debate, Cabinet members agreed to write to request an urgent meeting with Cabinet Secretary for Communities and Local Government Aileen Campbell. They noted the report from officers detailing the situation around Rapid Rehousing and will monitor the situation.
Councillor Jim Goodfellow, Cabinet Member for Housing and Community Wellbeing, said: “While East Lothian Council has done some great work in preventing homelessness and we continue to strive to meet government targets on eradicating homelessness and rough sleeping we do require significantly more funding and clarity on legislative changes to allow us to make progress towards these targets. I am pleased that Cabinet agreed to write to request a meeting with the Minister and I look forward to a further update to Cabinet on this situation later this year.”