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Scottish Charity Register No. SC043760

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Scottish housing scandal

May 18 2009
Six Scottish local authorities are ‘dumping‘ homeless people in neighbouring areas with little or no support The Scottish Government has condemned local authorities following an investigation by regional paper Scotland on Sunday, which revealed that councils were 'dumping' homeless people in neighbouring areas with little or no support. Six local authorities have come under fire and are being held to account over accusations of 'social cleansing'. However, the councils have hit back, claiming they were being forced to look elsewhere because of a lack of accommodation in their areas. Communities minister Stewart Maxwell has written to East Dunbartonshire, East Renfrewshire, Inverclyde, Renfrewshire, South Lanarkshire and Stirling councils asking for an explanation. A spokesperson for the government said: "We recognise the practice of out-of-area placements can be detrimental, leading to a loss of contact between the council making the placement and the household being placed. "Sometimes the host authority is not aware of the placement, which means they cannot assess the risk to others within the same accommodation. "The letter requests councils making these out-of-area placements to make clear how they ensure their staff follows a protocol with host local authorities." The action taken by the councils contravenes national guidelines, which state that homeless people should always be placed in their own area. However, the very government that has criticised the councils for this action recently produced a budget settlement for housing that, according to Scotland's major housing groups, has effectively cut next year's affordable housing budget by six per cent in real terms. This will fall far short of a government pledge to fund a programme of 30,000 affordable homes for rent by 2011. Scottish housing groups issued a joint statement which said: "The amount announced will go no way to meeting the 30,000 target. The announcement is a severe disappointment and is certainly a setback for Scotland's ambitious plans to lead the world in tackling homelessness and in housing the thousands of people currently on waiting lists or in temporary accommodation up and down the country." In an attempt to address this issue, Shelter Scotland has launched a toolkit on community engagement designed to look at ways to engage with communities so that conflict can be avoided or resolved when they are affected by new developments. Archie Stoddart, director of Shelter Scotland, said: "Conflict over plans for new housing is widespread across Scotland, and disquiet about new homelessness accommodation is simply the sharp end of that. "This pack has been designed to build better relationships right at the start and to ensure that the accommodation which is really needed gets built in the best places possible." Mr Stoddard added: "Moving people away from their support networks - like family or friends, or from their children's schools - should be avoided at all costs. "Out-of-area placements are often a symptom of the fact local authorities do not have anywhere to house people who have become homeless, either temporarily or into permanent housing. In November, the finance secretary John Swinney delivered his first budget to Parliament, which outlined spending priorities for the next three years. It did not find the money to meet the housing lobby's call for 30,000 affordable rented homes." Although the situation seems desperate, Mr Stoddard is determined to keep the homeless issue at the forefront of the political agenda in Scotland: "[Shelter Scotland's] first priority of 2008 will be to continue to keep the pressure on politicians of all parties to push for an increase in the amount of money allocated to affordable homes for rent," he added. "Housing needs will not stand still and we have an internationally acclaimed homelessness target to meet in 2012. Scotland must start to look at ways to provide more affordable rented homes from the budget available, for example through the planning system, or the private sector."