Speaking at a Shelter Scotland seminar social justice minister Iain Gray said the executive fully endorsed the report's recommendations which include changes to the current legislation, an end to the use of B&B accommodation for families and new rent deposit/guarantee schemes across the country.
Mr Gray said:
'Homelessness in all its forms is an affront to social justice. The executive believes everyone in Scotland should have a decent, secure home and this report gives us a blueprint for preventing and tackling homelessness over the next 10 years.
'As a measure of our commitment the executive has allocated an extra£11m over the next two financial years to help prevent and alleviate homelessness. Three million pounds will be available in 2002-3 and the further£8m the following year.
'It is important to remember that we have provided new resources, but we must also focus on the most effective use of resources. We need to strengthen current provision and make changes in current practices.'
The minister emphasised that there should be a greater focus on preventing homelessness. 'We are aware that there are some groups who are at particular risk. The report therefore focuses on careleavers, ex-service personnel, ex-prisoners and asylum seekers whilst also making general recommendations on preventing evictions and providing support more widely. We must prevent homelessness occurring - avoiding significant amounts of human misery, in some cases saving lives.'
He also pointed out that homelessness is not just a housing problem. 'Wide ranging action across a number of policy areas is required if we are to prevent homelessness and to tackle it effectively where it does occur. All sectors must work together, with homeless people, to achieve effective solutions.'
Liz Nicholson, director of Shelter Scotland, said:
'The homelessness task force has made significant progress over the last three years. In addition to identifying preventative measures and effective solutions to homelessness, the process itself has been an excellent model of how statutory and voluntary organisations work with the executive and participate in the policy-making process. An achievement in keeping with the spirit and aims of the Scottish parliament.'
The Scottish Council for Single Homeless also welcomed publication of the report. SCSH director Robert Aldridge, a member of the task force said: 'The report is as much about changing attitudes and practices as it is about changing the law. But it also recognises that to tackle homelessness effectively we need an improved supply of affordable, good quality housing in places where people want to live. It will need resources and we welcome the fact that the Scottish executive has recognised this.'
Cosla housing spokesperson Alistair Gray supported the task force findings. He commented:
'The findings of this report will underpin the homelessness strategies being prepared by Scotland's local authorities. We welcome the Minister's supporting resources and will work with our partners in the RSL and private sector to ensure there is an adequate supply and choice of quality affordable housing and appropriate support for homeless applicants to help them stay in their new homes'.
Among the report's 59 recommendationsare:
* Changes to homelessness legislation, which will ensure that all homeless people are entitled to permanent accommodation by 2012, (unless this right is suspended for a specific reason) and that homeless people can apply to any local authority in Scotland
* All local authorities must provide access to a rent deposit or guarantee scheme by 2004. A national furnished tenancy network will also be established with the aim of creating 5000 additional furnished tenancies
* Aspects of the benefits system will be reviewed by the Department of Work and Pensions to ensure that the needs of homeless people are recognised and taken into account
* Local authorities and others must establish comprehensive crisis response systems to deal with the immediate issues facing homeless people. This will entail the provision of emergency accommodation, joint assessment of needs and appropriate referral on to relevant agencies
* The use of B&B accommodation for families and the use of large-scale hostels will be eliminated
* Greater priority will be given to the meeting the healthcare needs of homeless people and to improving employment and training opportunities
A monitoring group will be set up to oversee the implementation of the plan. Mr Gray said:
'We need to make sure that this report makes a real difference and that the action plan is taken forward effectively and as quickly as possible. The monitoring group will comment on proposals for implementing the task force's recommendations, monitor statistical indicators as well as general progress and advise ministers accordingly.
'It is important that we take action which is not only co-ordinated across a wide spectrum of activity but also responds to the needs of all Scotland's homeless people. This is emphasised in the report and will be very evident in the way in which we move forward.'
The homelessness task force was set up in August 1999 with a remit 'to review the causes and nature of homelessness in Scotland; to examine current practice in dealing with cases of homelessness; and to make recommendations on how homelessness can best be prevented and, where it does occur, tackled effectively'.
Task force members are: Iain Gray, minister for social justice (chair); Cllr Rita Miller, Cosla; Mark Turley, Cosla; Robert Aldridge, director, Scottish Council for Single Homeless Liz Nicolson, director, Scotland; Margaret Taylor, director, Glasgow Council for Single Homeless; Mel Young, director, The Big Issue in Scotland; Dave Alexander, Scottish Federation of Housing Associations; Pat Bagot, policy and practice manager, Communities Scotland; Suzanne Fitzpatrick, department of urban studies, Glasgow University; David Belfall, head of group, development department, Scottish executive.
The executive allocated£40m from 1997-2002 for the Rough Sleepers Initiative. An additional£11m a year has been made available in 2002/03 and 2003/04 to continue the work.£27m has also been allocated to support the homelessness provisions contained in the Housing (Scotland) Act 2001.£14.5m over three years has been allocated to decommission Glasgow's outdated hostels and£6m has been allocated to help reduce the number of people, particularly families, in temporary accommodation.