Scotland

Inquiry into Glasgow City Council's homelessness services announced

A homeless person lying on a bench with a sign that says homeless and hungry Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The inquiry will inform future engagement between Glasgow City Council and the Scottish Housing Regulator

An new inquiry is to examine Glasgow City Council's ability to provide accommodation for people facing homelessness.

The Scottish Housing Regulator will use its legal powers to assess the council's homelessness services.

It comes after legal action was launched earlier this year amid claims that homeless people have been denied a place in temporary accommodation.

Glasgow City Council said it has been engaging with the regulator.

Local authorities have a legal duty to house people who are homeless or at risk of being homeless.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Glasgow City Council came under scrutiny for its homeless services earlier this year

Susanne Millar, the interim chief officer of the Glasgow Health and Social Care Partnership, said the council has been working with the regulator since 2016.

She added: "Glasgow is feeling the effects of welfare reform particularly acutely and the number of individuals affected by poor mental health or drug addiction is far greater than any other part of the country.

"We have plans in place to quickly rehouse people who are homeless and to help people to manage to stay in their homes, but there is still some way to go in meeting our statutory obligations and ultimately ending homelessness in the city.

"I welcome SHR's intervention. I am confident we can demonstrate that we are moving in the right direction, help them to understand the massive scale of the problems Glasgow is dealing with and work with them on future improvements to how we help people who are homeless."

Why an inquiry?

Glasgow City Council has been accused of illegally turning people at risk of homelessness away, and the homelessness charity Shelter has brought a legal action alleging the council has illegally denied people access to services.

The new inquiry follows a report by the regulator, published in March 2018, which said the council was not housing homeless people quickly enough.

A number of issues were identified in the report, including targets set by the council for the number of homes required to house people being "too low".

In the announcement of the inquiry, the housing regulator said Glasgow City Council did not provide an assurance statement, a requirement introduced this year for social landlords, by the deadline.

The assurance statement provides the housing regulator with guarantees that social landlords, which include local authorities, are complying with their legal duties as well as standards and best practice outlined by the regulator.

The Scottish Housing Regulator said the council would be required to explain to the regulator why it failed to provide the statement.

What is the law on homelessness?

Image caption The regulator said it will continue to monitor the council's services

Any person has a right, under section 28 of the Housing (Scotland) Act, to make a homelessness application to their local authority.

The council will then make inquiries to investigate:

  • whether a person is homeless
  • whether they are "intentionally homeless"
  • whether the person has a local connection

A person has a right, under section 29 of the Housing (Scotland) Act 1987, to temporary accommodation while the local authority is considering their homelessness application.

Legal action

The latest stage in Shelter's legal action against Glasgow City Council took place at the Court of Session on Monday.

The court agreed to continue the case in light of the new inquiry into homelessness services.

Fiona McPhail, principal solicitor for Shelter Scotland, said the case is about "one of the most fundamental rights homeless people have in Scotland".

"When in the crisis of homelessness, our laws say that temporary accommodation should be provided. Too often Glasgow has failed in that most basic duty," she added.

A petition with around 10,000 signatures, including Annie Lennox, Robert Carlyle, KT Tunstall and Val McDermid, calling for a law to secure a legal right to a home, will be presented to the Scottish Parliament on Tuesday.