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.’