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.

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Photo of Kenneth Gibson Kenneth Gibson Scottish National Party 3:30 pm, 5th March 2003

The SNP opposes amendments 6 and 16. As Jackie Baillie said eloquently at stage 2, there is an acute need to end the use of bed-and-breakfast accommodation for families. The homelessness task force recommended that it be ended. Indeed, I was pleased to move Jackie Baillie's amendment at a Social Justice Committee meeting at which the amendment was passed.

One would sympathise with the case that Karen Whitefield put if regulations arising from the Housing (Scotland) Act 2001 setting out minimum rights for hostel dwellers and people in bed-and-breakfast accommodation had been published. However, after almost two years, those regulations have not been published. As the bill stands, the use of bed-and-breakfast accommodation for families will end, except in an emergency. Of course, figures for the use of such accommodation under the coalition are at an all-time high.

Bed-and-breakfast accommodation for homeless people is, of course, not like the accommodation in grannie's Heilan hame. Local authorities might try their best, but families in bed-and-breakfast accommodation often have no facilities for washing and drying clothes and the establishments might be damp, in poor repair, inadequately furnished and lacking basic cleanliness. Privacy and play opportunities are lacking because of overcrowded living space, and cooking and toilet facilities might have to be shared with strangers, some of whom might have alcohol, drug or psychiatric problems. Violence and theft can occasionally be associated with that situation, which can create feelings of fear and insecurity in families.

In the 21st century, the use of bed-and-breakfast accommodation for homeless families should be consigned to the history books. An announcement has been made in England of the United Kingdom Government's intention to abolish such use of bed-and-breakfast accommodation, except in emergency circumstances. Consultation on the abolition has begun. If the bill that we are debating is to be the most progressive legislation in Europe for homeless people—as it is touted as being—we must oppose amendments 6 and 16.