Preventing homelessness ‘could become legal duty for public bodies’

Public bodies would have a legal duty to identify anyone at risk of rough sleeping and take action themselves.

Preventing homelessness ‘could become legal duty for public bodies’ iStock

Public bodies, including Scotland’s health service, police and children’s organisations, could be given a legal duty to prevent homelessness under new plans.

The Scottish Government has launched a consultation on the proposals to change homelessness legislation in an attempt to get public bodies to intervene at an earlier stage to prevent the “traumatic and unsettling experience” of homelessness.

They would have a legal duty to identify anyone at risk of rough sleeping and either take action themselves or refer on to more appropriate help.

Social justice secretary Shona Robison said: “We know that the best way to end homelessness is to prevent it from happening in the first place.

“These new proposals build on the strong housing rights that already exist in Scotland for people who become homeless.

“Early action should be a shared public responsibility, giving people facing homelessness more choice and control over where they live.

“Homelessness is often a traumatic and unsettling experience that can have a profound impact on the lives of those involved, including children.

“By intervening at an earlier stage, and encouraging services to work together to respond to people’s needs, we can ensure fewer people and families are faced with having to re-build lives affected by homelessness.

“This will further add to our existing ambitious programme of work and investment to ensure everyone has a safe, warm place to call home.”

Jon Sparkes, chief executive of crisis, said: “We strongly support plans for new duties for public bodies to prevent homelessness in Scotland. 

“Scotland has made huge progress in its journey towards ending homelessness in recent years, but while the country has powerful protections in place for people experiencing homelessness, far too many people are being forced to reach crisis point before they get the help they need. 

“Everyone has a role to play in preventing homelessness, and by introducing new duties requiring public services to ask about someone’s housing situation, and offer them the help they need, we can build a truly world leading system of homelessness prevention.” 

Councillor Kelly Parry, COSLA spokesperson for Community Wellbeing said: “People have a right to a place they can call home.

“Rough sleeping and sofa surfing is something we have always worked to eliminate.

“We welcome the proposal that the duty to end homelessness will be shared with other public bodies and look forward to being closely engaged in the consultation with other partners”.