Fife Council accused of turning people away in need of emergency housing
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Councillor David Barratt claims there have been instances across the region, putting the local authority in breach of its statutory responsibilities to provide housing at the point of need.
Council leader, David Ross, said the council was “under extreme pressure” to meet housing needs as the number of households using the service reaches unprecedented levels.
There has been a steady increase in the numbers of families and children looking for temporary accommodation since the first lockdown.
But Cllr Barratt, SNP member who represents Inverkeithing and Dalgety Bay, said he had been left shocked at the calls for help he had received from people who had been turned away.
He said: “I know we have a legal duty to house people in these circumstances, so initially I thought it must just be a mistake, but on further investigation and after repeated instances, this is happening more and more. I have spoken to colleagues, and I know this is happening across Fife.”
Cllr Barratt has raised the issue with the local authority’s housing service which he accepted was under significant pressure and relying heavily on hotels, B&Bs and hostels.
He added: “The council has been vulnerable to premises being fully booked or refusing to accept homeless individuals or families from. While it is disgraceful that any establishment would refuse to help individuals in crisis, Fife Council must act to remedy this situation.”
Councillor Lesley Backhouse, the SNP housing spokesperson, echoed the called for action.
“It is simply not an acceptable position to be in that the Council is turning vulnerable individuals away,” she said.
“If B&Bs won’t accept bookings from Fife Council, then let’s get the money directly into people’s hands to allow them to book accommodation. In the longer term we need to keep building and buying back council housing, but in the short terms and especially in the context of colder nights and a Tory cost-of-living crisis, we need immediate action so that we don’t turn people away in their hour of need."
In response, Cllr Ross outlined the pressures the local authority is facing.
He said: “Since the first Covid lockdown, we've seen a steady increase in the numbers of families and children looking for temporary accommodation, which brings its own challenges. The council is also responding to a significant legal decision which has severely affected the numbers of temporary accommodation available in the short term.
"We are adding around 300 additional units of temporary accommodation from our own stock, partners stock and private rented accommodation.”He added: "Working with organisations and neighbouring local authorities we are putting new solutions in place, including property acquisitions, but it is a very challenging situation.
"We are monitoring the situation very closely and officers are working to put solutions in place on a daily basis and doing all we can to support people who urgently need our help.”