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Monday, 30 April 2012

Changes to benefits entitlements as a result of the UK Welfare Reform Act could risk Scotland’s commitment to end unintentional homelessness by the end of this year, MSPs said this week.

Moves such as the so-called bedroom tax mean that debt counselling should be included in support offered to homeless people, according to a report from the Scottish Parliament’s Infrastructure and Capital Investment committee.

It said that housing associations and voluntary organisations should also be given a bigger role in providing preventative services to people at risk of homelessness.

Charities and housing associations were amongst those that were invited to give evidence to the committee this week after the publication of its report.

They were expected to discuss ways to ensure Scotland’s councils are ready to provide accommodation to all homeless people by December this year.

The committee convener Maureen Watt MSP said: “Our committee welcomes the significant progress made towards ensuring that every unintentionally homeless person has a right to settled accommodation, with the latest statistics showing a 20 per cent reduction in homelessness across Scotland.

“It is imperative that this positive work continues and that we do everything we can to ensure that it is not undermined by potential obstacles such as the changes expected under the UK Welfare Reform Act.”

The committee has been tasked with monitoring the implementation of the 2012 commitment over the next four years.

Speaking ahead of the meeting, Gordon MacRae from Shelter Scotland said the charity was concerned that the bedroom tax could force vulnerable people into a spiral of debt and out of their family home.

“Shelter Scotland would like the Scottish Government to consider the impact of welfare reform,tionally homeless person in Scotland the right to a home by the end of this year,” said MacRae.

“The 2012 commitment is not a choice, it is a legal obligation and the Scottish Government must ensure that the good progress made to date by local authorities in preventing homelessness is not undermined.”

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