I recently spoke in a debate on housing in the Scottish Parliament. There are currently about 56,000 homeless people in Scotland, 10,000 more than in the mid 1990’s, whilst 36% of homeless households include people under the age of 24.
The problem is especially acute in West and Central Scotland: figures for 2009/10 show that, of Scotland’s 32 local authorities, South Lanarkshire had the 4th most homeless applications, with 3,054. North Lanarkshire was 5th, with 2,975, and Falkirk 7th, with 2,378. Meanwhile, over 169,000 Scottish households are on council house waiting lists, and 53% of social housing in Scotland is situated in the 15% most deprived areas.
Under the terms of the “2012 Commitment” all homelessness applications must be assessed as priority. In effect, this means all homeless applicants must be housed. Depending on which document you read, the SNP Government has either pledged to build 6000 socially rented homes or 6000 “affordable” homes in each year of the Scottish Parliament. However, SNP spending plans reveal that only 1550 socially rented homes will be built this year, along with 1000 for owner occupiers. This leaves a shortfall of over 3000. It is difficult to see how councils will clear their council house waiting lists, let alone meet the 2012 commitment.
I recently visited Barnado’s Youth Housing Support Service in North Lanarkshire, which provides crisis intervention and group work support to young people aged between 16-24 years. Many of these young people have suffered physical abuse, and problems with drug and alcohol addiction. Their need for a stable and supportive home cannot be overstated.
During the debate I called on the Scottish Government to reform the Community Care Grant to ensure that it is consistently and correctly applied across the country, and that everything is done to help vulnerable young people secure long term homes that are safe, warm, and fully furnished. I am pleased to report that Alex Neil, Cabinet Secretary for Capital Investment and Infrastructure, has pledged to ‘look seriously at these suggestions to see whether we can take them forward.’
I was extremely concerned by the recent report from NHS Lanarkshire that revealed the extent of the staffing shorthall at Monklands A&E, and indeed across NHS Lanarkshire.
The report described the situation at Lanarkshire’s 3 Emergency Medicine Departments – at Monklands, Haimyres and Wishaw General – as “very fluid and vulnerable”, with the position within Monklands A&E referred to as “particularly fragile”.
Whilst I was alarmed at the scope and scale of the staffing shortfall, it is important to emphasize that the concerns raised in the report are not new. NHS Lanarkshire knew in 2007 that it lacked the resources to sustain existing Accident and Emergency services; yet, despite the clear and ongoing impact this has had on patient care, over the past four years Nicola Sturgeon has failed to invest the additional £50 million that NHS Lanarkshire said was needed to maintain all three A&Es.
This failure did not prevent Alex Neil from spending his entire election campaign scaremongering about Monklands A&E; but, once again, neither he nor Nicola Sturgeon promised to find the money to deal with the problem they caused, and the response from NHS Lanarkshire, which actively discouraged people from using A&E departments, is truly alarming.
NHS Lanarkshire clearly needs help to find a financial solution to the difficulties caused by this SNP Government, and I intend to meet with NHS Lanarkshire Chief Executive Tim Davison at the earliest opportunity. I have also written to Nicola Sturgeon to find out what action she is taking to address the challenges facing NHS Lanarkshire.