Labour MSP appointed ‘older person’s champion’ amid homelessness spike

The appointment comes amid a rise in the number of households with an elderly main applicant being assessed as either homeless or being at threat.

Scottish Labour MSP appointed ‘older person’s champion’ amid homelessness spike iStock

A Scottish Labour MSP has been appointed the party’s “older person’s champion” following a spike in homelessness among the group.

Colin Smyth will take up the role, which party leader Anas Sarwar said will help members to “defend their rights”.

The appointment comes amid an increase in overall homelessness, which has been seen more acutely in those over 60.

According to the most recent figures, the number of households assessed as being homeless or at threat of becoming homeless where the main applicant was aged over 60 rose by 28% in 2022-23 compared to the previous year.

The figure increased from 1,423 to 1,821.

The next highest increases, 18% and 14% respectively, were seen in those where the main applicant was aged between 50 and 59 and 35 and 49.

Speaking on Friday, Mr Smyth – who has proposed a Bill to create an older people’s commissioner – said: “From the shameful way they were treating during the pandemic to the soaring levels of homelessness, older people in Scotland have been badly failed time and time again.

“Too often the rights of older people are ignored, which is why we need an independent commissioner in Scotland to defend these rights.

“As Scottish Labour’s new older persons champion I will stand up for older adults, celebrate the immense contribution they make, and continue to work to deliver a commissioner.”

Mr Sarwar said: “This shameful rise in the number of older people facing homelessness drives home the need for change.

“Older people in Scotland are paying a harsh price for SNP and the Tory failure – but Labour will defend their rights.

“Colin Smyth will be a fantastic champion for older people and will drive forward the campaign for a commissioner.”

A Scottish Government spokesperson said tacking homelessness is a “key priority”, stating the Ending Homelessness Together action plan was developed with “expert input”.

The spokesperson added: “Scotland has the strongest rights in the UK for people experiencing homelessness, but we want everyone at risk of homelessness, regardless of their age, to get the help they need to prevent it happening.

“Scotland has led the UK in providing affordable housing with 126,396 affordable homes delivered since 2007, including over 89,000 for social rent.

“We remain committed to supporting the delivery of 110,000 affordable homes by 2032, 70% of which will be for social rent.

“We are providing funding of over £2 million from our Equality and Human Rights Fund to support older people’s organisations to deliver work focused on tackling inequality, enabling older people to live independent and fulfilling lives.

“We continue to work with our trusted partners in the Older People’s Strategic Action Forum on a range of priorities for advancing age equality.”

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