Homelessness etc (Scotland) Bill

Part of the debate – in the Scottish Parliament at 4:19 pm on 5th March 2003.

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Photo of Cathie Craigie Cathie Craigie Labour 4:19 pm, 5th March 2003

Like other speakers this afternoon, I would like to place on record my thanks to all those who have been involved in the bill. It has truly been a team effort that has involved many individuals and groups that represent the wide interests of homeless people and the local authorities that are to deliver the implementation of the legislation.

During the 1980s and 1990s, I campaigned to raise the profile of housing by highlighting the chronic underinvestment in our housing stock and the plight of the homeless. I share the view held by many that there was an ever-increasing need to place housing higher on the political agenda. At that time, we recognised that having a warm, secure and affordable home, together with a package of rights and responsibilities, was a key element in progress towards a more just society.

It has taken a long time for the issue to receive the attention that it deserves. During the years when the Tories were in power, it was hard to watch Scotland's housing stock decline through a lack of investment and homelessness increase, with people being blamed for bringing their homelessness on themselves. There was a lack of political direction in addressing the issue. As we have seen this afternoon, the Tories have not learned anything—they still do not have the political direction to take the issue forward.

However, as Robert Brown mentioned earlier, housing has now firmly taken its rightful place on the agenda. I am proud that, under a Labour-led Executive in the first session of the Parliament, we have placed housing at the heart of the political agenda with the enactment of legislation that makes, and will continue to make, a real difference to tenants and to people who do not have a home.

The Scottish Labour party is committed to tackling social exclusion and poverty in all its forms. Indeed, the Housing (Scotland) Act 2001 has already demonstrated that Labour is tackling the problems of homelessness head on. The Homelessness etc (Scotland) Bill represents an addition to the important measures that have already been put in place.

We recognise that dealing with homelessness is not just about providing a roof over the head of an individual or a family. As we have heard, the vast majority of people who find themselves homeless are ordinary people like us. Thankfully, they will have to deal with that situation only once in their lives. The bill seeks to introduce measures to deal with people who find themselves in a less fortunate position and who are caught in that revolving-door situation that members have already mentioned.

Through this legislation, action will be taken to ensure that people's needs are met, that they are not just given the keys of a house without the proper resources and back-up and that they are not turned away after one interview with the claim that no one can help them. The bill will help people who have serious problems as well as those who experience temporary difficulties in their lives.

Everyone involved in the wide-ranging debate on homelessness has recognised that the problem will not be eliminated overnight and that a sensible and achievable time frame has been put in place. It is also recognised that considerable resources will be required if we are to deliver the improvements that are intended by the legislation. I know that the Executive has taken seriously the points that the Social Justice Committee and the Finance Committee made about resources, and that it will work with COSLA and everyone involved to ensure that we work towards eradicating homelessness.