Rough Sleeping (Audit)

Part of the debate – in the Scottish Parliament on 5th October 2017.

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The First Minister:

The Government is leading from the front, which is why we have established the £50 million fund that I mentioned and have set up the expert group that meets for the first time today.

As I think that Pauline McNeill knows, I am very sympathetic to some of those issues, but we have set up an expert group to give us ordered recommendations on the actions that it thinks are most important for us to take forward. That may well include an audit. If that is the case, we will, of course, carry it out.

There is a debate about what the member characterised as the housing versus hostel approach. The expert group may well make recommendations about that, too.

One of the things that I see as being among the most important is that we do not see the matter as just an accommodation issue—whether the accommodation is houses or hostels. The way to tackle rough sleeping is to provide the package of support that is needed around people, so the housing first model that Pauline McNeill mentioned is important. I have already said that it offers opportunities for individuals with more complex needs in helping to stabilise their lives and to prevent repeat homelessness. Again, the reason why we have set up the expert group is to look at the issue to make sure that we are doing the right things.

We know that rough sleeping is increasing—I said that when I set out the programme for government. We also know—this takes us back to Alex Rowley’s question—that the increase in rough sleeping and homelessness generally is very much driven by the welfare cuts that we have already spoken about. Unfortunately, we cannot deal with the whole problem at source—I wish that we could—but we can make sure that we are doing as much as we can to deal with the consequences, and we will continue to do exactly that.