Any progress on tackling rough sleeping is to be welcomed. Indeed, rough sleeping in Scotland is at a record low, thanks to the concerted efforts of frontline homelessness services, local authorities and the Scottish Government to move people off the streets since the start of the pandemic, having invested £32.5 million—more than half—of their £50 million Ending Homelessness Together action plan to support local authorities to prioritise settled accommodation for all, provided £60 million to fully mitigate the unjust Tory bedroom tax for over 70,000 Scottish households, and delivered almost 97,000 affordable homes since 2007, in contrast to Scotland’s previous Labour-Lib Dem Administration, who built only six council houses in seven years. With the limited powers at their disposal, the Scottish Government are doing all they can to tackle rough sleeping and homelessness with increased urgency during this health pandemic.
In reality, however, the fact is that poverty often leads to debt and debt is a genuine factor in homelessness. If the Secretary of State really wants to prioritise rough sleeping and homelessness and raise the safety net, as he has said, he could use his reserved powers to at least maintain the local housing allowance increase beyond March 2021, instead of freezing it next year. He could suspend the shared accommodation rate for under-35s. He could make permanent the £20 uplift to universal credit and the working tax credit and extend an equivalent uplift to people claiming legacy benefits who have unjustly been denied this lifeline. We know that this is important since the removal of this uplift will push a further 60,000 people into poverty. He could also cover the average cost of rents to ensure that people are supported to stay in their homes. If the Secretary of State is really serious about raising the safety net, will he at least work to implement these measures as quickly as possible?