Citizens Advice Scotland has today given evidence to the Scottish Parliament on the problems faced by homeless people the CAB service has seen in the last year.
CAS has submitted the attached report to Holyrood’s Infrastructure and Capital Investment Committee. Backing this up with oral evidence this morning, CAS spokesman Rob Gowans said,
“Our evidence is based on real cases seen by Scottish CABs over the last year. While the proportion of homelessness cases has declined, some of Scotland’s Local Authorities seem to be having problems implementing the preventative 'Housing Options' approach that is designed to help people who are threatened with becoming homeless. CABs have even seen some clients who have been deterred from making a homeless application – which contravenes their legal rights.
“We recommend the publication of national guidance on ‘Housing Options’, to ensure clarity for all Local Authorities on how they can combine a preventative approach whilst at the same time ensuring that homeless people's statutory rights are respected. We also suggest further investigation is carried out on the reasons why the proportion of people assessed as 'intentionally homeless' has increased.”
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Here are some examples of cases seen by Scottish CABs in the last year.
NB These cases are presented anonymously, and the people involved are NOT available for interview. However their cases give a good cross-section of the situations homeless people in Scotland today.
NB These cases are all in the report we have submitted to the MSPs today, and they can be read there in the wider policy context.
A West of Scotland CAB reports of a client who is severely disabled and suffers from depression and has difficulty coping. The client has a four bed private let but her children are emigrating and the property is now far too big for her to manage and she is unable to cope with the stairs. She decided to give notice to her landlord and then proceeded to declare herself homeless, but received a letter from the local authority declaring her homelessness is intentional. Her landlord will not renew her lease and is expecting her to move out. Eventually, following an appeal, the decision of ‘intentional homeless’ was overturned.
A West of Scotland CAB reports of a client who had been staying with friends and family since her home was repossessed two years ago following a relationship breakup. The client, together with her four children had managed to find a private let, but it only has one bedroom and no heating. All the children have to sleep in one bed, which is particularly problematic as one of her children has a medical condition which results in him regularly wetting the bed. The landlord refuses to repair the heating and the client has found out they are unregistered. The client made a homeless application with the local authority a few months ago, who advised they were unable to accept her application until she proved she was threatened with homelessness and was told to get notice from the landlord. The landlord refused to do this and has threatened to send people round to evict her and dump her possessions.
An East of Scotland CAB reports of a 21 year old client who is living with her 23 year old partner and their 3 year old son. They had been declared homeless a year ago, and have been placed in a private let as temporary accommodation by the council. However, the property was in a state of disrepair. The roof was leaking and windows and doors to the outside would not shut properly resulting in drafts and dampness. As a result, the client was having trouble heating the house and has large fuel bills which she is struggling to pay from her Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA). The client has asked for the repairs to be carried out for over a year and they have still not been carried out, due to the roof being shared between three different properties. The client fears raising an issue for fear of losing her tenancy.
A West of Scotland CAB reports of a client who had been processed as homeless by the Council, and had been given temporary accommodation, but was evicted from this after being deemed to be ‘intentionally homeless’. When the adviser spoke to the Council, they advised that they had asked the client if she had any mental health issues but she had “taken exception to the question” and as far as the Council are concerned they have discharged their duty towards her. However, the client is still homeless and living in different locations on a day-to-day basis.
A North of Scotland CAB reports of a homeless client under the age of 25. His mother put him out after he was assaulted by his father at the weekend and will not take him back. The council will not house him, temporarily or otherwise. A phone call to his probation officer revealed that he had been evicted more than once, failed to keep up housing payments and had been aggressive towards other tenants. The client was looking for help to get somewhere to sleep that night.
A South of Scotland CAB reports of a client who was struggling with financial problems. The client was evicted for rent arrears when he lived in an "affordable" private rent. He went through the homelessness assessment and was given emergency accommodation, charged at £175 per week. This is more than any average private rent in the area, and higher than his previous property. As the client earns more than £25,000 per year he cannot claim support from Housing Benefit.
A West of Scotland CAB reports of a client who had been allocated a four bedroom house as temporary homeless accommodation for her son, herself and her alcoholic uncle who she looks after. Due to the size of the temporary accommodation the client is paying a very high rent and is subject to the under-occupancy charge (or Bedroom Tax).
A North of Scotland CAB reports of a couple who had been repeatedly denied the right to make a homeless application despite repeated requests over a three month period. Together with their two-month old baby, they had been living in a caravan with no water or proper heating in temperatures of -5 degrees centigrade. It was not until a health visitor saw the condition they were living in last week that an offer of permanent accommodation was made, without a homeless application being taken.
An East of Scotland CAB reports of a client who is going through divorce proceedings and is fleeing domestic violence along with her six children. The client is very distressed as she feels that she is likely to be evicted by her landlord. She went to the council who say they are unable to assist her as her housing application has been suspended. This is due to the allegations of unpaid rent from two landlords and the accusation of £6,500 damage, all of which the client disputes, with documentary evidence to prove some of the payments were made. The council also told her that she could not apply for homeless accommodation and that other advice agencies would not help either because of the debt allegations.
A South of Scotland CAB reports of a client who has split up from her partner and is homeless with no money. She has been sleeping in her car with no food for the last two days and was quite distressed. As the client has a number of health problems, she was anxious to stay in her hometown where her GP was based, but when the adviser spoke to the Council’s homeless unit on the client’s behalf, the only available temporary accommodation was located 40 miles away.
A West of Scotland CAB reports of a 17 year old client who is currently living with her six month old child in the three-bedroom family home, along with her mother, stepfather, two brothers and two sisters. She has made a homelessness application, but needs a property close to the family home for support. However, the only accommodation the council has offered has been in a town seven miles away, and the council have advised that they only restrict the areas offered for a limited time, and will now make an offer anywhere in the local authority area. The client is concerned that she will have to live a long way from her family.