Question Time — Scottish Executive – in the Scottish Parliament at 2:30 pm on 28th February 2002.

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Photo of Angus MacKay Angus MacKay Labour 2:30 pm, 28th February 2002

To ask the Scottish Executive whether it intends to implement the recommendations in the homelessness task force report. (S1O-4755)

Photo of Iain Gray Iain Gray Labour

Yes. As I made clear in launching the report yesterday, the Executive fully endorses the recommendations contained in the task force's report. I also announced that the Executive has allocated an extra £11 million over the next two financial years to support the task force's recommendations, which are a blueprint for preventing and alleviating homelessness. I was further pleased to announce that the Cabinet has agreed a legislative slot later this year to deliver the task force's recommendations in statute.

Photo of Angus MacKay Angus MacKay Labour

I am sure that the minister will join me in congratulating the housing and homelessness organisations and the individuals who have contributed successfully to the work of the task force.

When implementing the recommendations, will the minister undertake to confront directly perceptions about people who become homeless? In particular, will he undertake to promote recognition of some of the causes of homelessness, including unemployment, relationship breakdown, domestic abuse, illness and addiction, so that people who become homeless are recognised as being not different or failed but human beings of the same worth as anyone else in Scotland?

Photo of Iain Gray Iain Gray Labour

Angus MacKay is right. That is not surprising, given his professional background as a campaigner for a homelessness charity. The involvement of such a wide range of experts in the task force gives it its strength.

The report includes firm recommendations to improve the provision of health care, employment opportunities and social support for the homeless. All too often, the problems that lead to homelessness are problems that could strike any of us or our families at any time. The monitoring group, which is the successor to the task force, will expect us to do work to ensure that there is wider understanding of that among the public. Addressing homelessness involves addressing a housing problem, but there is often an attitude problem that must be addressed as well.

Photo of Kenneth Gibson Kenneth Gibson Scottish National Party

To what extent does the minister believe that the withdrawal of housing benefit to 16 and 17-year-olds by the Tories in the 1980s impacted on homelessness among young people? What representations—if any—has the Scottish Executive made to Her Majesty's Government over the past three years to seek the restoration of those benefits?

Photo of Iain Gray Iain Gray Labour

If Kenny Gibson reads the report, he will find that it makes recommendations on issues that it believes to be major contributors to homelessness. If it does not comment on the issue that he raises, that is perhaps because the experts feel that it is not the issue that has the greatest impact on homelessness. What he will find in the report are recommendations about areas of the benefits system in which the task force believed changes could and should be made.

On the representations that have been made, a representative of the Department for Work and Pensions was a member of the task force, so the answer is that representations are made regularly. I have also discussed the issue directly with the UK ministers responsible. The monitoring group will certainly expect such representations to continue and I will ensure that they do.