Midlothian Council to trial homeless prevention fund

A homeless Prevention Fund will be trialled by Midlothian Council offering support to people facing eviction or losing their homes.

Friday, 14th May 2021, 6:00 am
Stock photo by John Devlin.

The pilot project will be launched using £30,000 the local authority has saved after it was able to stop using bed and breakfast accommodation as temporary housing for those in need.

However, a report to councillors warned that the fund could risk “negative publicity” by paying rent arrears and should not be seen as an alternative to the Scottish Welfare Fund or Discretionary Housing Payments.

Midlothian councillors approved the establishment of the two-year pilot at their latest virtual meeting.

They were told that the fund would only be used as a “last resort” to prevent homelessness in Midlothian when all other avenues had been exhausted.

It could be used to directly pay money to landlords or provide goods which people might need to be able to move into accommodation.

Kevin Anderson the council’s executive director (place), told councillors that officers would require evidence that the fund would be preventing someone becoming homeless and that alternatives had been explored.

Councillors Stephen Curran (Lab) and Kelly Parry (SNP) both expressed concern that the fund would be “overly-bureaucratic”.

However, Mr Anderson said told the elected members that all efforts would be made to ensure responses to individual cases were fast.

His report to councillors pointed out that several other councils across the country were looking at prevention funds as a “spend to save” measure with benefits of keeping people in their current accommodation either long term or until suitable alternatives could be found.

Thus avoiding the high cost of temporary housing and reducing homeless waiting list.

The report added that the fund could also “help to establish trust in the relationship between service user and case officer, as the service user sees genuine action to help resolve their situation and are potentially more likely to engage in longer-term support offered”.

The Midlothian councillors asked for a report to come back on the effectiveness of the fund at the end of its first year.