Council Cuts and Homelessness

I first wrote on The Invisibles’ site some eighteen months ago. However, Councils have been hammered with more crippling cuts since then.

Regardless of where your politics lie, you should be well aware that every Council Cut not only affects the livelihood of the Council workers, but the most vulnerable members of our society.

Councils don’t just collect and empty bins once a week. They are social workers and the guardians for children in care; they are carers who provide assistance to the elderly and infirm in their own homes; they are the occupational therapists who will provide the adaptations to allow a disabled person to live independently and with dignity in their own home; they are the homeless services who many turn to when they find themselves without a home – need I go on?

Scotland sees the headlines about Council cuts but for some unfathomable reason, a minority can’t seem to accept the cuts to the above services are the same thing (at least, I pray its a minority).

Councils are a political pawn and I regularly see Council Workers terms and conditions of employment under scrutiny as some try to justify their political allegiance isn’t to blame – really Scotland, is this where we’re at? Its Westminster, its the Scottish Government, its the ‘whatever party’ run Council or is it also unfathomable that its all three?

Of course, we’d all do a better job. Goes without saying really.

Councils also provide funding to Scotland’s ‘Third Sector’ and there is a real fear how much funding they will lose as Councils struggle.  The voluntary sector provides invaluable support to many homeless people and families, grants from Councils and Central Government are essential to their service.

Homelessness – As I wrote in my previous piece, Council homeless Housing Officers/Caseworkers are fully aware of homeless legislation in Scotland and of the statutory duty to provide temporary accommodation, Housing Support and permanent housing – should you be assessed as unintentionally homeless with a local connection. With every cut to our service, the struggle to deliver this statutory service becomes more challenging. I might face a challenging job, but this is nowhere near the struggle anyone without a roof over their head faces.

The legislation being in place is great but there also has to be proper funding, without the funding, the legislation is useless.

I read a piece in the National Newspaper recently about homelessness in Glasgow and the statutory duty, the headline was ‘failing to meet legal obligations to the homeless’ – the article is, of course, 100% correct to highlight this and I hope it does raise awareness.

The article however offers no solutions and merely repeats homeless legislation from Scotland’s Homelessness Code of Guidance. There’s a few parts also incorrect – Councils do help people with no leave to remain in the Country and will always assist families with Children who have no leave to remain, there’s a legal duty under the Children’s Act.

The article also offered no insight into the plight of someone sleeping rough or the pressures on the homeless service itself. The National isn’t the first and certainly won’t be the last newspaper to do this.

There were 10,467 households in temporary accommodation as at 31 December 2015 – an increase of 249 households (+2%) compared with one year earlier. Over a quarter (2,769 households) were households with children – an increase of 278 households (+11%). On 31 December 2015, 4,876 children were in temporary accommodation – an increase of 543 children (+13%) – this is information on the Scottish Government’s own website.

Households in temporary accommodation are up, funding is down.

Councils do not cause homelessness but have the statutory duty to resolve it. With this is mind and the cuts to the service, we look to prevention.

As there isn’t enough social or affordable housing, many look to private rent. Housing is something we have full control over in Holyrood yet Scottish parties are voting against rent controls and regulation in the Private Sector – they are doing this in full knowledge that a lot of homelessness comes from the Private Sector – why?

Those with more complex needs such as addictions (and Methadone use) are, in my opinion, particularly vulnerable. Dr Neil McKeganey from the Centre of Drug Misuse Research was correct when he said its ‘a black hole into which people are literally disappearing’. Are we aware of how much this costs the NHS in Scotland every year? It is millions upon millions. Drug addiction is a life of hell that I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy. Someone with an addiction deserves better than an outdated multi-million pound programme that doesn’t work and sees them disappear down a ‘black hole’. Do not be so complacent as to think addictions only happen to other people or are born out of other issues, as I can assure you this isn’t always the case. I work with many who call it ‘green death’. This is yet another area Holyrood and Scotland has control over.

Addictions, poor mental health, relationship breakdown, job losses, debts and unscrupulous private landlords all lead to homelessness. These are issues most of us can identify with and are areas we need to be asking more questions about.

Homeless and vulnerable people have been hit with a double whammy in recent times, with welfare reform and cuts to the Public Services they rely on most. If a political party isn’t offering a solution to this, then they are very much part of the problem.  Politicians put themselves forward to run this country on a manifesto of promises and solutions, not excuses. Don’t waste the time of Public Service workers and those who rely on Public Services most by using excuses after the election.

I was in Rutherglen Main Street recently and a political party was proudly handing out mini-windmills and flags to kids, not policies on resolving homelessless and all the issues that cause homelessness.

I love the guys at The Invisibles, its all too easy to walk past someone sleeping on the street and post your outrage on Social Media. Use this outrage in a much more proactive and practical way than gaining followers and retweets. We all lead busy lives and I totally understand it isn’t always possible to give up time for the homeless, but there are well paid politicians in every area of Scotland who willingly put themselves forward to represent everyone in Scotland, it will take two minutes to ask them questions. Thank you.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.