Fife’s homeless support under significant pressure after sheriff’s ruling

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Fife Council’s ability to provide temporary accommodation to people who are homeless, or at risk, is under significant pressure after a ruling by a sheriff.

The local authority is facing a bottleneck after a judgement at Kirkcaldy Sheriff Court in March meant that all homeless households in the Kingdom are now effectively secure tenants.

It comes at a time when demand for homeless accommodation has increased dramatically - and the number of households occupying temporary accommodation has gone up.

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Fife Council estimates there are 950 households and over 500 children in temporary accommodation.

Fife House, HQ of Fife CouncilFife House, HQ of Fife Council
Fife House, HQ of Fife Council

Councillors were brief on the latest position this week, and housing officers said they were using the ruling as a springboard to accelerate their Rapid Rehousing Transition Plan (RRTP).

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It aims to reduce the reliance on, and time spent in, temporary accommodation where homelessness is unavoidable.

Before the pandemic, “positive progress” was being made, but lockdown created different challenges for housing access and homelessness services.

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Since March 2020, demand for statutory homeless accommodation has increased dramatically across Fife, and the number of households occupying temporary accommodation has also gone up.

And that has meant people being housed in B&Bs and hotels - a type of accommodation was largely eradicated before the pandemic.

A report from John Mills, head of housing services, said: “The effect of the decision is that temporary accommodation has become ‘bottlenecked’ with arrangements for discharging statutory duty or requiring households to leave temporary accommodation have been substantially affected.

“This has led to ‘throughflow’ reducing dramatically and creating a significant risk to the ability to meet statutory duty to all households assessed as homeless or in very vulnerable housing circumstances.”

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But he stressed, the department saw it as an opportunity to speed up its RRTP programme.

He said: “We view it as opportunity to accelerate progress to our rapid rehousing model and transform housing accommodation into what homeless people need and want.”

“There will be challenges ahead where families are in temporary accommodation that does meet their housing needs. We need to find innovative solutions.”

The department’s incident management team meets weekly to monitor the situation.