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Scottish councils face increased pressure on homelessness services

Homelessness and housing services in Scotland are facing growing financial pressures, a new report from Shelter Scotland has found.

The charity carried out a survey of 15 local authorities, which revealed that the “key change” since 2012 had been a switch to fixed budgets for non-accommodation based homelessness services.

Eleven of the 15 local authorities said they had received no increase or small reductions in their funding in the past four years.

This was driven by a 3.5% decrease in the Scottish government’s spending on local government between 2015-16 and 2016-17.

However, two said they had received increases of 13% and 8% respectively, and one said it had had to restructure staffing to meet targets of 15% reductions in frontline staffing budgets and 27% in management staffing budgets.

Overall, the report concluded that there was “a strong theme of drive for efficiencies and lean service delivery”.

The charity found that while there has been a 41% decrease in formal homelessness applications since 2004, most local authorities reported that the number of people informally seeking their services had remained the same or increased.

People seeking services were also more likely to have more complex health and social care needs.

Recent figures show that in England, rough sleeping has increased by 30% in the past year.

Local authorities said they were addressing the new challenges by increasing integration of services and avoiding duplication, providing more specialised support for individual groups, increasing focus on prevention of homelessness, and making IT systems more efficient.

Local councils responsible for housing also raised concerns about the impact of the introduction of universal credit, saying it could lead to an increase in tenants in temporary and permanent housing going into arrears.

They also said the reduction of the local housing authority rate in the private sector could lead to less housing being available.

Shelter said that “a sustained focus on increased supply of affordable housing” was needed, and that national benchmarks on quality, cost and changes for homeless and housing services should be established.

(Image c. Trowbridge Estate)

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