Homeless Persons (Unsuitable Accommodation) (Scotland) Order 2004 (SSI 2004/489)

Question Time — Scottish Executive — General Questions – in the Scottish Parliament at 11:41 am on 22nd March 2007.

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Photo of Charlie Gordon Charlie Gordon Labour 11:41 am, 22nd March 2007

To ask the Scottish Executive whether it monitors compliance by local authorities with the provisions of the Homeless Persons (Unsuitable Accommodation) (Scotland) Order 2004 and its associated code of guidance. (S2O-12449)

Photo of Rhona Brankin Rhona Brankin Labour

The Executive monitors compliance with the order in the following ways. First, data on local authorities' breaches of the order are gathered and consist of snapshot data for the last day in March, June, September and December. The latest data on breaches were published on 13 March. Secondly, Communities Scotland inspects local authorities' homelessness services to monitor compliance with their statutory duties, including compliance with the order. In addition to those routine activities, the Executive undertook a pilot study with local authorities to track their ability to comply with the order over a six month period, from August 2005 to February 2006. The report on the study was published in September 2006.

Photo of Charlie Gordon Charlie Gordon Labour

Is the minister aware that, 21 months ago, I raised in the Parliament the systematic breach of the legislation and guidelines by numerous councils in respect of one particular premises in my constituency, where what I can only call the dumping of homeless people without professional support was taking place? The problems persist. Therefore, will the minister instruct an investigation into that chronic and substantial problem?

Photo of Rhona Brankin Rhona Brankin Labour

We are aware of the issue for Glasgow and neighbouring authorities—it has been brought to ministers' attention by the homelessness monitoring group and by direct correspondence from the leader of Glasgow City Council. I know that Charlie Gordon takes the issue seriously. The issue is serious, which is why we are pleased that Glasgow City Council and the neighbouring authorities have agreed a protocol to address it. Glasgow City Council reports quarterly to ministers on progress. The reports show a significant reduction in the number of households that are being placed out of area. Some authorities have stopped making such placements and others have reduced the numbers dramatically and are making alternative arrangements in their areas. However, we are aware of the issue. I am happy to discuss with Charlie Gordon what further action can be taken to reduce the number of placements.

Photo of Margo MacDonald Margo MacDonald Independent

Does the minister accept that part of the reason for some local authorities' disappointing compliance levels as regards housing the homeless tracks back to the shortage of accommodation that is suitable not only for single homeless people, but for families? Will she consider approaching the Chancellor, whoever he may be, to have money restored to the local authorities whose tenants voted against stock transfer and which are now toiling to produce affordable housing?

Photo of Rhona Brankin Rhona Brankin Labour

Margo MacDonald will of course be aware that we have more than doubled the funding for affordable homes. I recently announced record funding for affordable homes in Scotland. We believe that everybody has the right to a decent, warm and affordable home. We believe that we are approaching the matter in the right way, using a combination of the social rented stock and houses that are available for first-time home ownership. Some councils have taken the route of stock transfer and have had their debt written off. We think that that is a good way to go for many councils. Other councils have approached the issue differently. Councils must decide what the best route is for their tenants.