GOVAN Law Centre is looking to launch judicial review proceedings in a bid to prove that single women with children are being unfairly discriminated against under local authorities’ homelessness policies.

The case is being put together after Glasgow City Council began Sheriff Court proceedings to recover over £13,000 of rent arrears from a single mother who it placed in temporary furnished accommodation almost four years ago.

Govan Law Centre believes the woman got into financial difficulty in part because the rent charged for this type of accommodation is typically higher than that charged for settled housing and is seeking to put a test case together to see whether the local authority has breached its statutory duties to her.

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Specifically, it aims to ask the Court of Session to determine whether the council is in contravention of both the Housing Scotland Act 1987, which stipulates that “reasonable charges” be applied when housing someone in temporary accommodation, and the Equality Act 2010, which says that a public authority must “advance equality of opportunity” between the sexes.

According to Govan Law Centre principal solicitor Mike Dailly, because there is a higher chance they will get into debt due to spending longer in higher-cost temporary accommodation than their male equivalents, homeless women are less able to take advantage of opportunities for advancement. The woman whose case he is working on, for example, has been unable to take on part-time work as part of a college course because it would impact her housing benefit entitlement, which could in turn put her further into debt.

“As a homeless person, if you are a woman it’s highly likely that you’ll have a kid and we know you’ll almost always spend much longer in temporary accommodation than a single man,” Mr Dailly said. “You’re not only placed in limbo but you’re pushed into financial destitution because you spend years in expensive accommodation on a temporary basis.

“We want to know what Glasgow City Council and other local authorities across Scotland have done to eliminate the inequality of women ending up homeless, being in temporary accommodation longer and getting a bigger bill than a single man.”

While the current focus of the judicial review plan is on the Glasgow case, Mr Dailly said he is looking to add women from other localities to build the test case.

A spokesman for Cosla, the umbrella group for all 32 local authorities in Scotland, did not comment on whether its members have looked at the issue of gender inequality specifically, although he did note that the organisation “recognises that specific groups of people are at particular risk of homelessness and that effective prevention of homelessness must recognise their particular needs”.

“We have committed to developing and implementing solutions for specific groups to prevent them from becoming homeless,” he said. “Our frontline staff continue to work tirelessly to prevent and respond to those presenting at our services who are homeless or at risk of homelessness.”

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A spokeswoman for Glasgow City Council, meanwhile, said that the authority is in the “process of responding” to a letter from Govan Law Centre regarding the rent-arrears case, but noted that the council will generally find it difficult to find permanent accommodation with a social landlord for someone with a history of rent arrears.

Despite this, the local authority this week unveiled an £18 million Rapid Rehousing Transition Plan that is aimed at drastically reducing the amount of time people spend in temporary accommodation within the next five years.

Across Scotland the average length of time someone will typically spend in temporary housing is 14 weeks, while in Glasgow the figure is 41 weeks. Part of the authority’s transition plan is to develop 600 housing-first tenancies for the city’s most complex and disadvantaged service users, with the aim being to bypass the need for temporary accommodation altogether.

Figures published in The Herald last month revealed that Glasgow refused 12,455 temporary accommodation requests between April 2016 and October 2018, mainly because no housing was available.