Unlawful homelessness failures in Glasgow

There are many charities undertaking important work to try and eradicate homelessness in Glasgow, from those working with people who are street homeless, those providing specialist support and accommodation, charities working with vulnerable women and children, and community law centres like ourselves.  

Last year Govan Law Centre (GLC) prevented 1,500 households in Glasgow from being made homeless, helped 400 rough sleepers in the City secure accommodation and drafted and raised dozens of petitions for judicial review for clients denied their homelessness rights under Scots law [1]. We support any call or campaign for local authorities to implement Scotland’s laws on homelessness in practice.

In June 2017 we submitted evidence to the Scottish Parliament’s Local Government and Communities Committee about the systemic failure of councils such as Glasgow failing to take homeless applications, and failing to fulfil its statutory duty to provide interim or temporary accommodation among other failures [2]. We have spoken out against these unlawful statutory failures consistently over many years in Scotland.

We understand Shelter Scotland are considering judicial review proceedings to try and require the homelessness strategy in Glasgow to be revised.  Strategies are documents for planning purposes to achieve longer term aims.  In our view, people who are homeless in Glasgow need accommodation and homes, not well intentioned words.

Lorna Walker, Partner at GLC said: “Every day, Govan Law Centre challenges Glasgow City Council who repeatedly breach their statutory duties, denying people who are homeless accommodation. Govan Law Centre and our partnership organisations always speak up for those who have no voice. Whilst we welcome any challenge to Glasgow City Council’s breaches in homelessness legislation, we do not believe that a revised policy strategy will improve the lives of people facing homelessness. The current strategy was revised in February of this year and yet statutory duties continue to be routinely breached” [3].

Christine McKellar, Senior Solicitor at GLC said: “Govan Law Centre works tirelessly to help vulnerable homeless people across Glasgow access housing and support services. In particular, those who have been denied their right to temporary homeless accommodation via Glasgow City Council’s homelessness casework service. This is a deep-rooted problem, which is unfortunately unlikely to be resolved by judicial review proceedings that seek to revise a strategy of general intent”.

Wendy Malloy, Senior Homelessness Caseworker at GLC: “It is evidenced through our assertive outreach hubs that people are still facing significant difficulties making a homeless application to Glasgow City Council.   Often, people are sent away and told there is no accommodation available for them.    This is placing vulnerable clients at risk of rough sleeping as well as the detrimental effect this can have on someone’s health.    The services offered by Govan Law Centre to our clients in this situation is vital, and we will continue to challenge the Council on this practice on their behalf.”.
[1] https://govanlawcentre.org/2019/06/19/6000-cases-and-1000-court-and-tribunal-appearances/
[2] https://govanlawcentre.org/2017/06/12/evidence-to-the-local-government-and-communities-committees-on-homelessness-in-scotland/
[3] Glasgow City HSCP Rapid Rehousing Transition Plan  (approved by GCIJB on 6 February 2019)

“2.4 Homelessness Services in Glasgow
The Council has a statutory duty under the Housing (Scotland) Act 1987 (as amended) to provide services if someone is homeless or threatened with homelessness. Where homelessness occurs, there is a duty to; provide temporary accommodation; undertake an assessment of need, provide permanent housing and a package of housing support for those who require it. The current homelessness strategy is based upon 2 key principles: (i) to prevent homelessness where possible, by providing access to good quality advice, assistance and support; and (ii) where people do become homeless, work with them to access emergency, temporary and settled accommodation and support which meets their needs.
The Homelessness Service in Glasgow has therefore been structured around these principles. The HSCP operates a Community Homelessness Service in each of the three strategic planning areas of the city. In recognition of the need to improve the delivery of homelessness casework services in Glasgow, a new operating model was formed in 2015, creating an integrated Community Homelessness Service alongside a qualified Social Work element in each locality area. The Community Homelessness Service is now fully integrated into the HSCP management framework and as a result has much closer alignment and access to operational health and social care services. This has led to significant improvements in partnership working across homelessness, health and social care functions in order to enhance outcomes for vulnerable households and improve support for service users with multiple needs”.

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