Section 1 — Amendment of section 25 of the 1987 Act

Part of Homelessness etc (Scotland) Bill: Stage 3 – in the Scottish Parliament at 2:32 pm on 5th March 2003.

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Photo of Des McNulty Des McNulty Labour 2:32 pm, 5th March 2003

I am pleased to see that Linda Fabiani is here today to move the amendment—a similar amendment was not moved during stage 2.

In taking forward the homelessness task force's recommendations on groups of people considered to be vulnerable and in moving from the code of guidance to proposed legislation, we needed to examine closely the appropriate legal definitions. Inevitably, some flexibility is lost in doing that—that is part of the difference between legislation and guidance.

We identified 20 as the appropriate upper age for young people to ensure consistency with the Homeless Persons (Priority Need) (Scotland) Order 1997, which covered young people who were formerly looked after by local authorities. The primary purpose behind the way in which the bill was drafted was to consolidate that order into primary legislation. Increasing the age limit for such formerly looked-after young people and extending it to other potentially vulnerable young people up to the age of 24 would move us well beyond the task force's recommendation.

We also want to keep the bill in line with the Executive's commitment that the first phase of the expansion of priority need should be cost-neutral to local authorities. As far as possible, the bill should not to be associated with the development of new policies with a much broader application. We need to ensure that the expansion of priority need is manageable. We must ensure that we consult fully on any move only after we have considered all the implications and costs as well as which other categories of people might be affected.

That is not to say that I do not understand the concern to include other potentially vulnerable young people. We all want to see assistance targeted on those who need it most. I emphasise that, within the framework of the bill, local authorities can continue to find someone vulnerable under the provision on "other special reason". The code of guidance will be updated during the course of this year and, as part of that process, I am sure that further consideration will be given to what the provision on "other special reason" might cover.

I urge members to resist amendment 7. Agreeing to the amendment would undermine the commitment that was given throughout the development of the bill that the first-phase expansion of priority need should be cost-neutral. Amendment 7 would add an uncosted burden on local authorities and would pre-empt proper consultation on which categories of people might be considered in the context of the next phase of expansion.