Cyrenians welcomes prevention duties in the Housing (Scotland) Bill

27 March 2024
Edinburgh skyline from Princes st

Cyrenians welcomes the introduction of the Housing (Scotland) Bill to the Scottish Parliament today. Long awaited, the new prevention or ‘Ask and Act’ duties included within it have the power to reach people before they become homeless and get them the right help, much faster.

'Ask and act' forms the cornerstone of a wider set of reforms to homelessness legislation. If passed, the Bill will require public bodies – including healthcare and justice agencies to implement systems whereby people at risk of homelessness are easily identified and directed to the appropriate services before they reach crisis point.

These duties will implement recommendations from the Homelessness Prevention Task and Finish Group (co-chaired by Crisis and Cyrenians), published in August 2023 [click here to read the Group's report]. The group drew on its collective knowledge of the housing sector, as well as the lived experience of people who were homeless, through the All in for Change programme.

Throughout the process, building up to the publication of the Housing Bill, Cyrenians has consistently argued for increased funding to resource new prevention duties. We will continue to advocate for the necessary resource that our public bodies and local authorities will need to make the promise of the Housing Bill possible.

Ewan Aitken, Chief Executive of Cyrenians, said:

“Scotland is in the grip of a housing crisis. Several local authorities have now formally declared a housing emergency as the numbers of people facing homelessness is reaching record levels. But we know from our work across 60 services in Edinburgh, the Borders, Falkirk and the Lothians, that in many cases homelessness can be stopped long before people reach crisis point.  To do that we need to widen the scope of responsibility, giving people within public bodies the right training and resource to be able fulfil this role. We believe that this, a public health approach to homelessness, is key to tackling the housing crisis.

'We are very pleased to see the plans for prevention duties within the Housing Bill, published today. This legislation has the potential to prevent homelessness in Scotland. However, to do that, it needs to be properly resourced.  As a charity which tackles the causes and consequences of homelessness, we regularly work with people whose situation could have been prevented, if they had received help earlier. We urge the Scottish Government to ensure that these duties are properly funded so that the bill can live up to its potential.”