Regulator criticises Scottish council over weaknesses in provision of temporary accommodation

Glasgow City Council has improved its homelessness service but still should address weaknesses in its temporary accommodation provision, the Scottish Housing Regulator has said in an inquiry report.

The report found important improvements since the regulator’s last inquiry in March 2018. 

It said the council offered temporary accommodation to almost all people who required it during the Covid-19 but prior to that it “did not ensure that it had enough suitable temporary accommodation”.

Nor was temporary accommodation provided to significant numbers of people in need, among them some who were vulnerable and had made multiple accommodation requests.

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Michael Cameron, the regulator’s chief executive, said: “The council has undertaken and continues to undertake a wide programme of improvement and transformation activity as part of its Rapid Rehousing Transition Plan. It has made some important improvements in its service.

“The council should address the weaknesses we identified in its approach to temporary accommodation…it should ensure that it has an adequate level of suitable temporary accommodation which meets the diverse needs of people experiencing homelessness.”

A Glasgow City Council spokeswoman said: “We welcome this report from the regulator and their recognition that improvements have been made to our homelessness service in spite of the challenges we face.”

She said Glasgow received 16.4% of all homelessness applications in Scotland and last summer this reached an average of 481 a month.

Glasgow made almost 6,000 offers of temporary accommodation and completed 1,300 resettlement plans during that period despite the impact of the pandemic.

“The service has improved in several areas, including preventing the cycle of repeat homelessness, however, our biggest challenge remains our access to temporary accommodation,” the spokeswoman said.

"This cannot be solved overnight. The council does not have its own housing stock, so we will continue to work with the city’s 68 registered social landlords and [arm’s-length contractor] City Building to bring quality temporary accommodation back into use as quickly as possible.”

The regulator’s report did not though quell a row between the council and the housing charity Shelter, which last year took legal action over claims that the council failed to provide temporary accommodation for homeless people.

Shelter said the report included “alarming evidence of families with children being turned away without the council knowing where they would sleep that night”.

Its director Alison Watson said: “This report confirms the systemic failure of Glasgow City Council’s homelessness services, which has led to thousands of people being denied their legal rights.

“We took legal action last year because we’d had enough of the Council routinely breaking the law and forcing people onto the streets. This inquiry wouldn’t have happened if it wasn’t for the thousands of people who supported our action, in Glasgow and beyond.”

The report referred to 202 households with children that were not offered accommodation, most of whom told the council they would stay with family or friends or return to their previous accommodation.

Glasgow said it had reviewed the figures used by the regulator for this part of the report and “strongly refutes any suggestion that families with children were turned away with no alternative accommodation”.

Mark Smulian

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