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 Johann Lamont Johann Lamont Labour 3:30 pm, 5th March 2003

I have spoken to some housing officials in rural areas who regarded the amendment that was passed at stage 2 as extremely urban focused.

There is an issue to do with the quality of bed-and-breakfast accommodation. We know that far too many people in some of our cities have awful experiences of being placed in entirely inappropriate circumstances, but I have also been told of families, particularly in rural areas, choosing to stay in bed-and-breakfast accommodation in the village or area in which they live rather than having to go elsewhere. I would imagine that the appropriate test would relate to what is best for individual families rather than to a prescription that comes out of a particular experience in urban areas. Nobody in the chamber wants to corral anybody into inappropriate bed-and-breakfast accommodation and I do not know any housing official who wants to do so either.

There is an underlying assumption that there are people who work in housing in our local authorities who do not share our concern for the needs of families and what will happen to young people at school and in the rest of their lives. We need to support legislation that allows flexibility and puts faith in local authorities to act in the best interests of the vulnerable families whom they are dealing with. There is no monopoly of concern on this matter. We have to have rigorous regulations that allow people to work to the best standards.

The way in which Linda Fabiani, in particular, has attempted to characterise this debate is unhelpful. The existence of the bill alone speaks volumes about our commitment to supporting vulnerable families.