Homelessness Prevention Reaps Real Benefits

3 Jan 2013 11:11 AM

An innovative approach to dealing with homelessness is delivering real benefits for the clients of North Ayrshire Council and other councils across Scotland.

North Ayrshire Council’s mainstream housing service has been refocused on preventing people from becoming homeless rather than just responding to people already in crisis. This type of innovative approach to public services has been hailed a success by Finance Secretary, John Swinney.

The homeless prevention and advice service which is delivered by a centralised, specialist team, enables individual households to make informed housing decisions based on their own needs and aspirations and has resulted in homeless presentations dropping by 49 per cent over four years.

Commenting on the work of North Ayrshire Council Finance Secretary John Swinney said:

“For anyone facing homelessness it is a worrying and upsetting time. The Scottish Government is committed to helping those affected. Just several days ago the commitment that anyone in Scotland who loses their home through no fault of their own is entitled to settled accommodation became law.

“What this Government really wants to see is people not becoming homeless in the first place. I am delighted that the Scottish Government has recently provided an extra £300,000 to help councils work together to help prevent people becoming homeless. This money will help to ensure that more Councils continue to adopt a way of working similar to North Ayrshire Council.

“The Council is to be commended for its fresh thinking approach to dealing with a very serious issue. Its specialist teams are focused on helping people not become homeless in the first place. Through talking through all possible options with an individual they have a much better opportunity to secure a planned rather than crisis move. This results in a reduction of permanent mainstream housing required for homeless people which, in turn, creates a shorter waiting time for mainstream applicants.

“They have also taken the innovative step of actively offering mediation and negotiation services for those individuals who could safely return home rather than become homeless. This option will not be appropriate in every circumstance but where it can offer a positive outcome for individuals the difference is marked.

“Planned moves rather than a crisis move can be much less stressful for the individual and also result in savings for the Council budget as temporary accommodation is very expensive. These savings can then be reinvested in other public services.

“The preventative approach being taken forward by North Ayrshire Council is strongly supported by the Scottish Government and is now being mirrored in local authorities across Scotland with the number of people applying to councils as homeless having fallen by 19 per cent over the year (2011-12)."