By Mhairi Hunter, Glasgow City convener for health and social care integration

GLASGOW is leading from the front in implementing Housing First and rapid rehousing and transforming our homelessness services to reduce time spent in emergency or temporary accommodation to a minimum. The scale of our challenge is huge and means our service reform must be bold and innovative.

As part of our Rapid Rehousing Transition Plan, we have set five-year targets to reduce the supply of hostel provision by 500 units and to develop 600 Housing First tenancies for the city’s most complex and disadvantaged homeless people.

To support this, the Glasgow City Integration Joint Board recently agreed a saving of £2.6 million on purchased homelessness services which don’t align with this strategic approach. The reduction will come into effect in October. This was a difficult decision and board members discussed and scrutinised the proposals carefully before agreeing them, not least because of the impact on some third sector providers who will lose funding – we will do everything we can to support them.

However, as our commissioning model changes from building-based provision to community-based support services provided to people in their own homes, this will need to come with a reduction in those services which don’t align with this different approach to tackling homelessness.

The £2.6m reduction we have agreed is a necessary catalyst for change. Glasgow needs to decrease the amount of emergency/supported accommodation in the city. If we don’t, our transition to rapid rehousing and Housing First will not be as effective as it needs to be. To place this decision in context, the reduction of 68 beds out of 974 Total Interim accommodation in the city represents a reduction of seven per cent of capacity, not all of which is currently occupied.

Those in need will continue to be supported either into tenancies with housing support, or transferred to other supported accommodation or transitioned into their own permanent tenancies without support if they have no ongoing needs. Throughout the transition we will keep the need for temporary and emergency accommodation under close review.

The city government has identified homelessness as one of our priorities and has committed £7million in revenue and capital to support the transition to Housing First. This is more than double the value of the disinvestment in forms of support which don’t align with this approach.

This £7m investment has allowed Glasgow’s Health & Social Care Partnership to work with our partners to make significant progress implementing Housing First. More than 70 individuals with complex needs have already been housed in their own homes and the impact on these individuals has been life-changing.

Additionally, the £557 million investment funded by the Scottish Government will provide 8.5 thousand more affordable homes in Glasgow over the next period, reducing pressures on the housing supply.

Partnership working with our Registered Social Landlord (RSL) and third sector colleagues is vital. We are establishing an ambitious alliance with our third sector partners. This will transform service design and delivery in the city as we jointly plan and deliver a more integrated and responsive service. We will work together to continue to redirect resources from outdated and sometimes stigmatising homelessness provision into providing support to people with complex needs living in their own homes and communities.

Our current support for homeless people in the city doesn’t work as well as it should and the council and our partners in the third and RSL sectors are all committed to changing that. It is always difficult to make decisions to disinvest from services, but without a wholescale change in our approach, we will be unable to make the inroads we need to transition to the rapid rehousing model that we all want to see.