Council ‘failed homeless people’ before coronavirus crisis

Glasgow City Council 'failed to comply with its statutory duty', the Scottish Housing Regulator found.

Council ‘failed homeless people’ before coronavirus crisis Getty Images

A local authority failed in its legal duties to homeless people before the coronavirus pandemic, according to an inquiry.

The Scottish Housing Regulator said in its report on the investigation that Glasgow City Council “failed to comply with its statutory duty to offer temporary accommodation in nearly one in three occasions when people required it” in 2019-20.

It also found the council did not ensure it had enough suitable temporary accommodation even before Covid-19 struck.

The report highlights “alarming evidence” of families with children being turned away without accommodation and the council knowing of single people sleeping on the streets.

It says: “During 2019-20, the council told us that it failed to offer temporary accommodation on 3786 instances when households required it, which was lower than the 3835 it reported to the Scottish Government and which was an increase of 445 on the previous year.

“This means the council failed to comply with its statutory duty to offer temporary accommodation in nearly one in three occasions when people required it.

“The council told us that this related to 1471 households.”

The report adds: “From our review of a sample of cases we found that single people were disproportionately affected by this – they accounted for 66% of homeless applications but for 83% of those not offered temporary accommodation.

“Many of those not accommodated were vulnerable and approached the council for help on multiple occasions.”

The inquiry was announced last year after Shelter Scotland started legal action against Glasgow City Council over the practice of “gatekeeping” – when a homeless person is denied access to services – and other “failings in the homelessness services” at the local authority.

Alison Watson, the charity’s director, said: “This report confirms the systemic failure of Glasgow City Council’s homelessness services, which has led to thousands of people being denied their legal rights.

“We took legal action last year because we’d had enough of the council routinely breaking the law and forcing people on to the streets.

“This inquiry wouldn’t have happened if it wasn’t for the thousands of people who supported our action in Glasgow and beyond.

“We’ll now take the time to carefully reflect on the report and assess what needs to happen next.”

The report also recognises that 17 new staff have been hired by Glasgow City Health and Social Care Partnership in recent months, with an increase also reported in the number of lets from housing associations during the pandemic

Ms Watson added: “We welcome the regulator’s findings and recommendations, and look forward to meeting to discuss the issues further.

“The test will be how Glasgow City Council responds positively to this unprecedented intervention.

“Our shared goal must be to ensure that everyone who presents to the council as homeless is provided with the safe and suitable accommodation they’re legally entitled to.”

A Glasgow City Council spokeswoman said: “We welcome this report from the regulator and their recognition that improvements have been made to our homelessness service in spite of the challenges we face.

“Glasgow receives 16.4% of all homelessness applications in Scotland and during April and August 2020, the council received an average of 481 homeless applications per month.

“Despite Covid-19 lockdown restrictions, the team made almost 6000 offers of temporary accommodation and completed 1300 resettlement plans during that period – managing to maintain 95% of usual business.

“The service has improved in several areas, including preventing the cycle of repeat homelessness, however, our biggest challenge remains our access to temporary accommodation.”

She added: “This cannot be solved overnight.

“The council does not have its own housing stock so we will continue to work with the city’s 68 registered social landlords (RSLs) and City Building to bring quality temporary accommodation back into use as quickly as possible.

“We remain committed to working in partnership with the third sector and RSLs on a range of improvements we are making through our Rapid Rehousing Transition Plan, our new Alliancing model and Housing First.

“We are pleased that this is an area the regulator has also highlighted improvements in.”

The full report can be read online.

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