RECENT statistics showing that homelessness is still on the rise are another reminder of the extent of the problem that faces those of us committed to ending this stain on society. Various factors have driven these rises. Certainly issues around the rise of in-work poverty, the benefits system, and a lack of affordable housing stock have made what was always a difficult proposition to solve more tricky.

The Scottish Government’s Ending Homelessness strategy – backed by a £50m fund – has driven some new thinking and has largely been well received. New money, a renewed commitment from local government and a civic society demanding more action, has at least pointed the ship in a better direction.

The move towards policies such as rapid rehousing and versions of the Housing First model – where people can go from homelessness to a full tenancy without going through temporary accommodation – are very much welcome. However, like any other area of public service reform it is not without cost and needs long-term investment.

In Glasgow, the city’s Integration Joint Board – the body responsible for Health and Social Care – recently decided to cut £2.6m from homeless provision. The argument that a move from the traditional ‘homelessness bed’ model to a Housing First arrangement is better for individuals is initially compelling. But, and it’s a big ‘but,’ does Glasgow have the capacity to deliver immediately?

From the Scottish Government statistics on homelessness we learned that Glasgow City Council had turned away homeless people from temporary accommodation on 3,365 occasions over the last 12 months. Indeed, Glasgow alone was responsible for 95% of all Scottish cases of people being denied their right to accommodation at their point of greatest need. This is not just immoral but it is also unlawful.

It is clear that this cut of £2.6m is too fast, too soon and too brutal. The situation is clear, Glasgow faces a huge challenge in supporting homeless people. There is also the spectre of a drugs crisis in the city where drug deaths are climbing and benzodiazepines, such as Valium and Diazepam, are being sold for as little as 30p a tablet.

There is evidence from other countries that moving to a rapid rehousing approach will save money, not only for for local councils but also for the NHS, for the police and for the criminal justice system. It is the perfect example of what Dr Campbell Christie said almost a decade ago about early intervention and prevention and its transformative effect on public service delivery.

However these savings cannot be realised in the short-term. The only way to do this is to transfer cash from the NHS and the police and prisons system after the change has been effective. This can happen, but it won’t happen overnight.

In the meantime, the much needed investment needs to continue with local authorities continuing or increasing their investment. I recognise that finances are stretched; I was a councillor and saw millions reduced from budgets. But if Glasgow thinks it’s OK to cut provision for our most vulnerable people, what message does this send to other hard-pressed councils?

The joint board in Glasgow should see the recent statistics as an opportunity to change its mind. The decision to cut could be reversed or put on hold for 12 months to allow time for reflection.

The Scottish Government will be allocating funds to local authorities very soon to drive change to end homelessness. It would be utterly perverse if the authority that got the biggest slice of that pie was the same one that made the biggest cut.

Gavin Yates is the CEO of Homeless Action Scotland