A LEADING law firm for vulnerable and homeless people has welcomed government plans to improve standards of temporary accommodation across Scotland.

A senior case worker at the Govan Law Centre said the announcement that new legislation would focus on getting people out of temporary homes quicker was a positive step, but warned law changes may not go far enough to help those most in need.

The number of homeless people across Scotland is one the rise, and those sleeping rough on the streets has been a focus of national attention for several years.

As exposed by the Herald on Sunday, people living in temporary accommodation such as hostels, hotels and B&Bs are often trapped there for weeks or months on end, while those living in unsuitable flats can languish for years.

The cost of many temporary housing options can be up to £327 a week - more than renting a plush apartment in some of the most upmarket neighbourhoods across the country.

We exposed the scandal earlier this year and visited six locations where residents were often living on junk food, not allowed to talk to other people for fear of drug-dealing, and were locked out if they came back five minutes late.

Following our reports, the government announced they would be holding a consultation on the issue, which has now concluded.

This week the Scottish Government's housing minister Kevin Stewart said he welcomed the responses on how to improve temporary housing, and said that "from May 2021, this new legislation, a UK first, will ensure people are moved into a more appropriate, permanent home as soon as possible."

He added: "The consultation also demonstrated strong support for a set of legally enforceable standards, which people with experience of homelessness told us would help improve safety and standards by raising problems or issues temporary accommodation.

“This year we will build on the advisory standards we have already introduced and use these consultation responses as we work with partners to develop a legally enforceable standards framework.

“We will continue to support local authorities to deliver our progressive legislation as part of our £50 million plan to eradicate homelessness in Scotland.”

Wendy Malloy, a senior caseworker with Govan Law Centre, said the plans, while a move in the right direction, may not be enough to end the scourge of homelessness and the squalid standard of living for some of the country's most vulnerable people.

She said: "I think it is a cautious welcome. We have bene involved in any consultations, we are welcome to any change that improves services and provision for anybody in Glasgow and the wider area but I suppose we have to be quite cautious about this.

"The devil is in the detail and we don't know yet what these temporary accommodation standards are going to be.

"We have regularly clients who are complaining about te standards of accommodation and the length of time they have been there. We certainly know these standards are required, and are a necessity for homeless people but we don't know what that standard is going to be."

Malloy explained that while having some sort of basic standard for homeless accommodation is positive, holding people accountable for maintaining that standard may be more difficult.

She said : "Often people do not know there are standards, so how does this get communicated? They need to know how to go about reporting [any problems], and without fear of that having an impact on their application which a lot of people do.

"People are fearful.

" There are standards in other types of accommodation, such as private housing. Local authorities will not have to reinvent anything here, they are already there for other tenures. It should of course be extended to temporary accommodation. Homeless people should not be treated in any lesser way because they are homeless. We would like to see mirroring of the standards out there for other tenures, to be applied to homeless accommodation."

Currently, unsuitable accommodation orders are intended to provide better quality housing for families with children, and pregnant women, by making sure nobody is housed in hostels, hotels and B&Bs for more than seven days.

However local authorities regularly flout the rules, with official figures showing Edinburgh City Council breached the orders 540 times between September 2017 and 2018. This accounted for 72 per cent of the national total for this time period.

The latest consultation asked respondents if they thought the order should be extended to cover all homeless people, not just children and pregnant women, with an "overwhelming" number of people who have been homeless saying they believed it should be.

The housing minister said if this was implemented it would "end the use of B&B’s in Scotland, apart from in emergency situations.”