Shelter Scotland has accused the Scottish government of breaking its promise to introduce greater protections for homeless people, following the government’s decision to delay the introduction of legislation that will restrict the use of hotels and B&Bs as temporary accommodation.
Yesterday, legislation was laid in the Scottish parliament to delay the extension of the Unsuitable Accommodation Order until June.
Since 2014, the Unsuitable Accommodation Order has banned councils in Scotland from housing pregnant women and families with children in hotels and B&Bs for more than one week.
In May last year the government committed to extending these rules to include all homeless people by September 2020.
However, the rule change was then delayed until the end of this month and has now been delayed again until June.
Alison Watson, director of Shelter Scotland, said: “The Scottish government has again gone back on its promise to extend vital protections to all homeless people.
“This extension gives councils a licence to put people in crisis in sub-standard temporary accommodation like hotels and B&Bs, which will harm their mental and physical health.
“Our message to government is clear: no more excuses, no more delays. The homes exist to get people out of unsuitable temporary accommodation, but people who are homeless are not being prioritised. This isn’t about capacity, it’s about political will.”
Ms Watson also urged ministers to set up a “temporary accommodation taskforce”, which she said should “consider ways to secure more social housing tenancies for people who are homeless”.
Like in England, at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic the Scottish government ordered councils to find self-contained accommodation for people who were sleeping in the streets or in shared accommodation such as shelters.
In October, the government also announced a long-term strategy to phase out the use of night shelters completely in Scotland in favour of ‘rapid rehousing welcome centres’, which would encourage guests to move on to other services as quickly as possible.
The extension of the Unsuitable Accommodation Order is likely to have a big impact on the temporary accommodation capacity of some local authorities in Scotland.
Edinburgh Council has previously warned that the legislation is likely to result in roughly 1,000 of the beds it currently uses for temporary accommodation becoming unsuitable.
The Scottish government has been approached for comment.