Eradicating Homelessness in Scotland

On World Homeless Day you don’t have to travel far in Scotland to see the problem of homelessness up close.  I spoke to Cody V an eighteen year old from Aberdeen who has come out of the care system and struggled to find accommodation since.

Cody’s birthday was last week and she was happy to have been offered a flat in a nice part of central Aberdeen. She had a few friends coming in later in the day to celebrate with her, and was enjoying not having to “live by someone else’s rules”.  But it hasn’t been easy for her since she left foster care two years ago to go back to her parents home.

I asked her what happened after she left the care of Aberdeen Social Services aged sixteen.

“When I went home, I couldn’t really cope with living in a house with lots of other people.  I was used to living with just one other person and I found it was very stressful for me.

“So I moved in with an ex-boyfriend and his mum, but then one night we had a massive argument and we couldn’t live in the same house as one another never mind the same room.  I stormed out and when I went back the next day, all my stuff was packed up in boxes.”

With nowhere else to go Cody made her way back to the social services at Marshall College, Aberdeen where her social worker found her temporary accommodation in a B&B.

“I was there for just under six months, but it I didn’t have any freedom.   There was a lot of rules.  You had to be in by 10.30, you couldn’t have friends in, and the worst bit was there were no real cooking facilities, just a microwave in the kitchen.  The social workers took me to the food bank sometimes, and I still have to go there sometimes because I only get £57.90 a week and that has to cover all my expenses.”

Cody’s new accommodation is in The Foyer, which is a housing association for young people from 16 – 24, and offers housing, with support to help with jobs and training.  She loves her new flat and that she has a kitchen to cook in.  Although this now offers some kind of permanency she will only be housed until she gets on her feet.

But problems like Cody’s are being recognised and leading the way is North Ayrshire Council.  Last week steps were taken to address one difficulty in secure housing for young people.

Robert Foster is a Scottish Labour councillor in Irvine and he told me that last week North Ayrshire Council passed a motion which his party proposed to abolish Council Tax for people who have been in foster care.

They will now seek the necessary powers from the Scottish Government to be able to introduce the exemption.

“It always seemed that one difficulty young adults have with housing could be helped if they didn’t have a considerable Council Tax to pay on top of rent and running costs.”

“Now that North Ayrshire council are leading the way, we will take the proposal to the Scottish Government and push for it to applied throughout the whole of Scotland.”

After the meeting, Labour Council leader Joe Cullinane said it was an important step forward for care experienced young people not only in North Ayrshire but throughout Scotland.

“Care experienced young people have skills, talents and ambitions just like their peers, but the challenges they face are vast and we have a responsibility as corporate parents to create the right environment of support to help them achieve their potential.  Today North Ayrshire Council once again acknowledged our responsibility and are taking steps to offer practical financial support for those leaving care to live independently.”

Now they hope to work with the Scottish Government to have the necessary powers devolved to allow this exemption to be introduced across all of Scotland.

 

Susan Paterson.

 

 

 

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