Today I spoke in a Westminster Hall Debate concerning the support for people experiencing homelessness during the winter months. As the SNP spokesperson for Housing, Communities and Local Government I am acutely aware of how important this debate is, particularly during the pandemic and as we find ourselves in the cold winter months.
Undoubtedly this year has been tough for so many people – with sectors across Scotland facing widespread redundancies, families now experiencing economic hardship and more people plunged into homelessness. The pandemic has clearly exacerbated issues around homelessness.
Speaking in the debate today I wanted to highlight the work that the Scottish Government have done to combat and prevent homelessness, alongside supporting those who are rough sleeping. Scotland currently has some of the strongest homelessness rights in the world – with anyone who is experiencing or is at risk of homelessness entitled to receive help from their local authority, including accommodation.
I also wanted to highlight the fact that the Scottish Government has provided a £50 million ‘Endling Homelessness Together Fund’ and have published an updated Ending Homelessness Together action plan. This plan recommends the phasing out of night shelters, which will be replaced with rehousing welcome centres providing emergency accommodation and targeted support, including for wellbeing, health and social care issues, legal rights, employment and welfare.
On the other hand, the UK Government have enacted disastrous homelessness policies. I am particularly concerned with the Home Office plans to deport non-UK nationals who are sleeping rough. I have also repeatedly called on the UK Government to suspend its No recourse to Public Funds policy, enabling people to access public services and health advice during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. This pandemic has proven to us all just how tragic this Tory Government has been at handling a crisis – with the possibility of a no deal Brexit in the horizon, I dread to think how bad it could get for the poorest in our society.
It is more obvious than ever that Scotland, as an independent country, can best support people experiencing homelessness and rough sleeping.
Watch my full speech during the debate below: