The annual Government homelessness statistics, which came out this week, make for pretty grim reading. Almost every homelessness indicator has gone up in the past year—the number of homelessness applications has risen by 3 per cent; the number of homeless children has risen for the fifth year in a row; and, every 17 and a half minutes, a household is made homeless.
Shelter Scotland says:
“On an industrial scale, thousands of men, women and children are being denied their most basic right to a safe home.”
For how much longer is the First Minister prepared to tolerate that?
Any rise in homelessness levels is unacceptable, and I am concerned about the statistics that were published this week. The long-term trend in homelessness applications is downward, but we take seriously the recent increase.
The figures that were published this week largely predate the publication of our ending homelessness action plan—the plan was published in November and the statistics cover 2018-19. The plan sets out a range of actions to tackle homelessness and rough sleeping and is backed by £50 million of investment.
I say to Graham Simpson that everybody who knows anything about the subject knows why homelessness applications are increasing. He might not want to take my word for that, so I will quote the United Nations special rapporteur on poverty. The Tories might do well to listen to what the special rapporteur said in his statement on Wales, which has wider applicability. He said:
“There is wide consensus among stakeholders that benefit changes are one of the structural causes behind the increase in poverty, rough sleeping and homelessness”.
The Crisis homelessness monitor report also said that local authorities’ view is that welfare cuts have
“exacerbated homelessness” and that
“almost all acknowledged that” the
“impacts had been mitigated by the Scottish Government”.
We will do everything in our power to tackle homelessness. However, I say to Graham Simpson and to every Tory in the chamber that, instead of coming here and asking the Scottish Government to take more action to mitigate the actions of their Tory Government at Westminster, it would be fitting for them to make a case to their Tory Government for stopping the cuts altogether.