Section 8 — Suitability of accommodation for homeless persons

Part of Homelessness etc (Scotland) Bill: Stage 3 – in the Scottish Parliament at 3:30 pm on 5th March 2003.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Karen Whitefield Karen Whitefield Labour 3:30 pm, 5th March 2003

Amendments 6 and 16 remove the original amendment that was lodged by Jackie Baillie at stage 2 and replace it with an extension to the duty that a local authority has to applicants in the period prior to its discharging its ultimate duty to provide final accommodation. I am well aware of Jackie Baillie's commitment in this area, especially to homeless families. Although I appreciate her concern and agree with her that local authorities should not use bed-and-breakfast accommodation regularly to accommodate homeless families, I suggest that there can be circumstances in which such accommodation is appropriate for homeless families. It should, therefore, be possible for local authorities to use that type of accommodation.

The Housing (Scotland) Act 2001 already ensures that any such accommodation must be reasonable for the applicant to occupy and that local authorities must have regard to the best interests of the children in securing that accommodation. The power that amendment 6 creates is capable of preventing the inappropriate use of bed and breakfast accommodation for families with children, but it allows exceptions when the use of such accommodation may be in the best interests of the family.

In addition, amendment 6 gives ministers the power to describe accommodation that cannot be used as interim accommodation. It is a very wide power, which enables any such description to be subject to "conditions or exceptions". That means that the power could be exercised in such a way as to describe the relevant accommodation; to describe the conditions in which the use of such accommodation is not appropriate; and to state exceptions to the general position.

It should be noted that the power would be capable both of preventing the inappropriate use of bed-and-breakfast accommodation for families with children and of making exceptions when bed-and-breakfast accommodation might be in the best interests of a family, but the power would not be restricted to that. The power could be used to disbar the use of any form of accommodation for any household type or in any circumstances and to state exemptions to that.

I believe that everyone in the chamber would agree that, wherever possible, bed-and-breakfast accommodation should not be used for families. However, I know from constituency experience that the use of such accommodation is sometimes the right solution, especially when families have school and family ties in communities and it is preferable that they remain within such communities. On that basis, I ask members to support amendments 6 and 16.

I move amendment 6.