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SNP Party Conference on housing

Monday 15 October 2018

On 7-9 October the Scottish National Party (SNP) had their national conference in Glasgow. So what did it hold for housing?

The SNP Annual National Conference was billed as a chance for MSPs and supporters to come together to discuss and vote on resolutions, which if passed become SNP policy. But with much of Nicola Sturgeon's speech dedicated to the fiasco that is Brexit, what it means for Scotland and why SNP would vote for another referendum given the chance, housing announcements were in short supply.

Housing topics that were on the agenda were pretty much contained to policies aimed at tackling homelessness, giving a boost to council homes and minimising the negative effects of Universal Credit.

Universal Credit

Sturgeon called upon the UK Government to halt the roll-out of Universal Credit, saying that the fact it is causing misery is now beyond doubt and that: "The experience in areas where Universal Credit is already implemented [in Scotland]...is of rent arrears and increased reliance on food banks." 

She went on to say that even the Minister responsible now says that it could cost families £200 a month, referring to a public admission by Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, Esther McVey, that some people will be worse off, and further allegations that she told cabinet colleagues that they could be up to £200 worse off.  

She went on to explain how the Scottish Government is utilising their limited new powers over social security by setting up Social Security Scotland, made possible as a result of the Scottish Parliament passing the Social Security (Scotland) Act in April 2018. They new department will be responsible for administering a range of benefits including Discretionary Housing Payments. 

Social Security Scotland will employ 1500 people between its Dundee HQ and its base in Glasgow, and a further 400 in local communities across the country, with Sturgeon boasting that it demonstrates that when more powers are given to the Scottish Parliament, more services are delivered in Scotland.

Local Councils' borrowing cap 

Amidst the news-grabbing headlines of the borrowing cap on local councils being lifted in England, Sturgeon was keen to point out that the SNP has never applied a cap in Scotland, and that in the last five years more council houses had been built in Scotland than south of the border.

"Overall, we’ve delivered 78,000 new affordable homes in our time in government. And I can confirm today that we are on track to reach our 50,000 target in this term of parliament. That’s vital to meeting our moral responsibility to eradicate homelessness and rough sleeping."

Homelessness

The First Minister announced how the Scottish Government would increase their level of funding to Social Bite's Housing First Scheme to £6.5 million. This radical approach to tackling homelessness, made popular in the USA before being adopted by various European countries, ensures that those in need are able to secure accommodation first, before being given additional specialist support for a wide array of complex issues and needs. 

Social Bite’s investment to date has already enabled 200 people with some of the most complex needs to be supported into permanent accommodation. Sturgeon estimated that the new round of funding announced at the conference, will help, not 200, but 800 people to be lifted out of homelessness for good.

Whilst she was keen to stress the innovative approach of the Scottish Government, it's by no means a first for Scotland, with trials also currently taking place in cities across England.

Describing the importance of the approach she said:

"Without this approach, homeless people can spend long periods of time in temporary accommodation, making it harder for them to address the other issues they face."

"With that, the priority is to help people into settled accommodation first, so that they can access support from the security of their own home."

Finally, in a passing statement on infrastructure, she pledged £7 billion of extra investment in schools, hospitals, housing, transport and low carbon solutions.