WITH 10 months to go before legislation comes into force, Scottish Borders Council has become one of the first local authorities in Scotland to meet the historic 2012 homelessness commitment.
The council, with nine other local authorities, has met its target ahead of time to abolish priority need assessments, in effect giving every unintentionally homeless person in the Borders the legal right to a home. The changes have ended the system where only people deemed to be in priority need had the right to a home.
The act, passed in 2003, effectively extends the right to a home to single homeless people and couples without children. For the last nine years Scotland’s 32 local authorities have been preparing for the changes.
Graeme Brown, director of Shelter Scotland congratulated Scottish Borders Council on its commitment in preparing for the historic reforms.
He said: “The 2012 commitment is internationally regarded as the cutting edge of progressive homelessness reform and Scottish Borders Council can be very proud that it is leading the way in making history.
“I congratulate the council on its continued focus on meeting its responsibilities to homeless people and in its early preparedness for the reforms.
“In already having effective policies and practices in place, the council has ensured itself a smooth transition, meaning key resources such as temporary accommodations won’t experience a sudden increase in demand.
“This achievement marks a new beginning for the council and the way it treats homeless people. It is a huge step towards eradicating homelessness not only in the Borders, but in Scotland as a whole.”
Scottish Borders Council leader David Parker said he was delighted that the local authority had met the Scottish Government’s removal of priority need test in advance of the end of 2012.
Mr Parker said: “We couldn’t have achieved this without the dedication and commitment from our staff who welcomed the new prevention approach implemented on April 4, 2011 and met the challenge head-on by working in a radically different way.
“This wouldn’t have been possible without the support of members, who endorsed a new strategy in February, 2010, which placed a greater emphasis on prevention and the establishment of a dedicated prevention team adopting a housing options approach.”
Mr Parker added: “Early indications of our new approach are very encouraging but we still have a lot of hard work to do to put in place all the measures that we think are necessary. We need to continue making sure everyone is getting all the help to which they are entitled, particularly as the supply of housing continues to be under pressure.”